Category: Books-DVDs

The Magic Treehouse Book Series Is Engaging Even for Kids Who “Don’t Like to Read”

Posted on Oct 15, 2014 by No Comments

Though my daughter has been able to read for a couple of years, she still claimed to “hate reading” until recently.

My husband and I are both avid readers, and can think of no better way to spend an afternoon, evening, or weekend than with a book (we don’t get to do that much, but that’s another story).

She was at the awkward stage where the books were either too easy or too difficult. We kept finding easy readers that didn’t challenge her and chapter books that intimidated her.

One day, we ran across The Magic Treehouse book series by Mary Pope Osborne at the book store. It caught my eye because they had a book about dolphins (Dolphins at Daybreak), a topic she actually has enjoyed reading books about in the past.

I bought her that one and she devoured it. We went back and got more for an upcoming trip and she couldn’t hold herself back from reading another one and getting halfway into the first in just two days. Finally, books she likes!

The topics are so varied, there’s something for any kid. There are the regular chapter books with stories about the adventures of brother and sister, Jack and Annie, as well as a “Fact Checker” nonfiction series that goes along with them for extra exploration of kids’ favorite topics.

To find out more about the books, read a sample, check out events, play some games, and more, visit

Photo credit: Amazon

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls Is a Beautifully Written Memoir

Posted on Oct 13, 2014 by No Comments

I had been hoping to find a book that would really move me. Lately, I’ve read a lot of “good” books, but none of them really stuck with me and made me feel like I had to go tell everyone I know to go read them.

The Glass Castle is different. I love memoirs anyway, but this one has to be my favorite.

It’s about a life “on the run” for the author, her siblings, and her parents. Her dad was a highly intelligent alcoholic who, despite his faults (the alcoholism, ideas that the family needed to pick up and leave because different groups of people were after them, the inability to hold down a job for very long, and others), still obviously loved his kids and wanted them to have fulfilling lives. Jeannette was his favorite, and she believed in him even when no one else did, so their relationship was especially interesting to follow.

Walls’ mom was an emotional artist (and teacher, when she had to be) with her own addictions and quirks (some of which will make you want to shake her and ask what she was thinking), and she thought everything they did—the running from state to state, having to look for food in dumpsters, being homeless or in the very least, hungry—were exciting adventures. And she was addicted to excitement.

I’m always in awe when an author can take a character in a novel and make them seem real, but even though these characters were real people, I’m still in awe of Walls’ ability to convey so much about their life, conflicts, character, and struggles that I felt like these people were my family by the end.

I was sorry when I had finished the book because I enjoyed it so much, but I was satisfied with the ending and never bored over the course of the whole story. It’s not just an interesting—and at times, shocking—story. The simple elegance of language painted the imagery and emotions in a way that encouraged me to settle in and get lost in someone else’s past for a while.

Photo credit: Amazon

The Dollhouse Book Is an Easy Way to Encourage Imaginative Play

Posted on Oct 9, 2014 by No Comments

Dollhouses can provide hours of imaginative play, but they can’t always be personalized in the way that your child wants. However, The Dollhouse Book can be customized for on-the-go dollhouse fun.

This clever book features 30 cut out blank pages to create a 15 room dollhouse. Each open spread becomes a room and the elastic cords allow you to join up to four different books together to make one larger dollhouse creation.

I think joining books together would be a fabulous activity for a birthday party, since each child could take home her own dollhouse at the end of the celebration.

The Dollhouse Book is made in the UK. It measures 14.4 x 9.4 inches. The pages are made from a premium heavyweight paper and individually hand finished.

dollhouse book 01I can see hundreds of possibilities for how your child can decorate this dollhouse.

For example:

  • Cut out pictures from magazines of different dollhouse furniture.
  • Use strips of washi tape to make patterned wallpaper borders.
  • Make a mural on the wall with tiny stickers.
  • Stamp your doll’s name above her bedroom door using tiny rubber stamps.
  • Use glitter glue pens to draw on sparkly curtains for the windows.
  • Use construction paper to make furniture that folds out from the pages, similar to how a Murphy bed folds down from the wall.
  • Glue a picture behind one of the windows or doors to show a special view or a friend who is coming to visit.

The Dollhouse Book is available from Rock and Pebble for $35. The peg dolls shown on the store’s website are not included with the book.

Photo credit: Rock and Pebble

What Makes You Happy?

Posted on Oct 7, 2014 by No Comments

It’s written to appeal to little ones, but there’s plenty for Mom to love in 100 Things That Make Me Happy by Amy Schwartz.

This whimsically illustrated picture book features a total of 100 everyday joys, ranging from fuzzy sweaters and long letters to pony rides and shiny slides. When you’re finished reading this to your little one, it’s impossible to be in a bad mood! What’s not to love about a celebration of chocolate chips, camping trips, hula hoops, and double scoops?

My favorite part of this book is that the back of the book jacket features an adorable poster with each of the 100 things to be happy about. When my son was still in the picture book stage, I always removed the book jackets on hardcover books since he was likely to tear them apart if I 61bNJvH981Lleft them on. So, I love the idea that the jacket can be used as a cute decoration for your child’s room.

I also really like that Schwartz has taken care to promote diversity in her illustrations. There are boys and girls from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds — sending a message to children that we’re all the same underneath our skin. After all, what kid doesn’t like flip flops and lollipops?

If your child’s teacher does a special celebration for the 100th day of school, this book would be a fun thing to bring for show and tell.

In kindergarten, my son’s class had a week long celebration of the number 100 to celebrate their 100th day of school. I’m sure his teacher would have loved having this book to read to all the children.

You can purchase 100 Things that Make Me Happy on Amazon for $12.71.

Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher.

Photo credit: Amazon

Learn to Look at Saving Money As an Adventure

Posted on Oct 2, 2014 by No Comments

Do you remember reading Choose Your Own Adventure books as a child? I loved this series in junior high, so I thought Melea Politis Johnson was extremely clever to have used the same concept in Create Your Own Money Saving Adventure: The Standard Edition.

The founder of, Johnson is a stay-at-home mom sharing her money saving tips in a fun, conversational format.

It’s not really apparent from the title or book jacket description, but Create Your Own Money-Saving Adventure is heavily focused on learning how to coupon. Johnson has several useful tips for beginning couponers, including remembering to always carry a copy of the store’s coupon policy with you when you shop in case you run into problems, what stores are most “coupon-friendly” for newbies, and how to make the most of any overage you accumulate with your couponing.

But, if you’re opposed to using coupons because you don’t want to invest the time in getting started, you have a lot of dietary restrictions that make it hard to find coupons for useful food items, or you’re super picky about your personal care products, you’re going to end up skipping over half the book.

I would have loved to see Johnson expand on her ideas for household savings and debt elimination. If you’ve gotten yourself into a bit of a financial pickle, realizing you can save $100 or more a month by dropping cable TV and watching your favorite shows on Netflix and Hulu Plus is a more significant savings than learning how to get free toothpaste.

The tips Johnson provides are useful, but I would have enjoyed Create Your Own Money Saving Adventure more if she would have devoted an equal amount of time to couponing and non-couponing ways to save money. Nevertheless, I would still recommend this title to anyone in search of a quick read providing basic money-saving tips for the modern family.

Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher.

Photo credit: Amazon

Posh Coloring Books Make Coloring Fun for Grown-ups

Posted on Sep 29, 2014 by No Comments

Coloring isn’t just for kids any more. Grown-up coloring is quickly becoming an alternative to traditional crossword and Sudoku puzzles. It’s an established activity in countries such as the United Kingdom and France, where adult coloring books are now outselling cookbooks!

Regardless of your age, coloring is a therapeutic, almost meditative activity. It requires almost no brain power, yet is a creatively fulfilling way to unwind and relieve stress. I used to color alongside my son, but now it’s something I’ll do while watching TV to help me resist the temptation to snack mindlessly.

For adults interested in something more challenging than the typical child’s coloring book, Andrews McMeel has introduced a line of new Posh coloring books featuring intricate, high-quality line drawings designed to appeal to the more advanced tastes and coloring skills of adults.

poshThere are three titles available:

Each title is available in the original Posh format (7×9 inches) as well as the smaller Pocket Posh size (4×6 inches). The smaller size is the perfect option to slip inside your purse or briefcase for on-the-go fun.

If you’re a cardmaker or a scrapbooker, I also noticed that the finished pages from the smaller size can easily be incorporated into these paper crafting projects.

I would suggest using colored pencils or fine tipped pens to color in the designs in these titles. The drawings are too intricate to color with crayons, but the paper is not thick enough to allow you to color with markers without bleeding through the reverse side. I’ve been using a set of colored gel pens with glitter flecked ink, which adds a fun sparkle to the finished picture.

Disclaimer: Product samples were provided by the manufacturer for the purpose of preparing this review.

Photo credit: Andrews McMeel, Dana Hinders

Fairy Tale Success Inspires Young Entrepreneurs to Reach Their Goals

Posted on Sep 26, 2014 by No Comments

Fairy-Tale Success: A Guide to Entrepreneurial Magic by Adrienne Arieff and Beverly West aims to guide aspiring entrepreneurs through all the steps of starting a business.

Adrienne Arieff is a digital and marketing communications professional formerly with one of the top PR agencies in the United States. Beverly West is President of Our Kitchen Table Books and Media, working with publishers, literary agents and individuals to develop successful books for the commercial marketplace.

In Fairy Tale Success, they turn the traditional Cinderella story on its head by encouraging female readers to take control of their destinies and create their own happy ending.

Taking the fairy tale metaphor from start to finish, the chapters in Fairy Tale Success include:

  • Reveal Your Noble Roots: Embrace Your Value
  • Wish Out Loud: Write Your Business Plan
  • Make Practical Magic: Get Funding
  • Summon Your Fairy Godmothers: Networking
  • Hear Ye, Hear Ye: Harness Social Media
  • Make a Grand Entrance: Launch Your Brand
  • Keep Your Eye on the Crown: Stay Focused
  • When the Clock Strikes Twelve, Don’t Panic: Deal with Obstacles
  • If the Glass Slipper Fits, Wear It: Enjoy Your Success

Most business books are fairly dry, but this title keeps the reader’s interest by incorporating success stories from female entrepreneurs such as Jessica Cervantes of PopsyCakes, Tavi Gevinson of The Style and Susan Gregg Koger of ModCloth.

The success stories are informative and inspirational, but it seemed to me like they were heavily skewed towards women with an interest in fashion and beauty. I would have liked to have heard from more women in engineering, software development or other traditionally male-dominated fields.

The book is written to appeal to teens or young adults, but you’ll find some general advice to use if you’re looking to start your own home based business. The section on writing a business plan gives much more relatable tips than the entrepreneurship course I took in college and I thought the section on dealing with obstacles like a cash flow shortage or bad press via social media had some very insightful advice.

Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher.

Photo credit: Adams Media

60 Years/60 Words Challenge Marks the Release of Guinness World Records 2015

Posted on Sep 24, 2014 by No Comments

If you’re looking for a way to encourage a reluctant reader, you can’t go wrong with Guinness World Records 2015. Guinness World Record books are some of the most popular titles at schools and children’s libraries across the United States, since they provide endless trivia tidbits for younger readers to discuss with their friends.

The 2015 edition celebrates the 60th anniversary of Guinness World Records. To mark the occasion, Guinness World Records is launching the 60 Years/60 Words Challenge. From now until December 1, kids ages 7-12 can enter  this national competition by selecting their favorite world record and telling about it in 60 words.

Their entries can be posters, videos, poems, or short essays, but need to be exactly 60 words. The competition winner will earn a $500 scholarship, a copy of the Guinness World Records 2015 book, his/her photo in the 2016 book, and a $500 grant for his/her school. Ten semifinalists will win a copy of the Guinness World Records 2015 book.

If your child wants to enter this contest, submissions are accepted online at Entries will be judged on creativity, originality, and representation of the record.

“The competition is a fun way to celebrate 60 years of record-breaking achievements,” said Stuart Claxton, Marketing Director for Guinness World Records. “I am looking forward to seeing some of these kids break their own records in the future.”

My nine-year-old is still working on choosing a record to use for his contest entry, although he’s leaning towards something in the animal or video game sections. What type of records do your children enjoy learning about?

Photo credit: Guinness World Records 2015

Be Prepared to Evacuate Your Home

Posted on Sep 17, 2014 by No Comments

In the event of an emergency, how prepared are you to evacuate your home? If your answer is “not very”, Mary Rowbury can help. Rowbury, an insurance professional for 25 years, created Grab ‘N Go to help others be prepared for emergency evacuations after she was forced to quickly leave her home in 2011 due to a fire.

Her family document organizer is designed to help you be prepared for fires, earthquakes, tornadoes, and other types of emergencies where you need to have important medical and financial information at your fingertips.

Grab ‘N Go helps you create your own emergency binder filled with essential family information, important contacts, financial documents, passports, and medical records. There’s even space for information about your wills, trusts, and funeral planning.

Although some of the information and items you’re asked to gather in Grab ‘N Go seem fairly obvious, others are ones you might not think of on your own.

For example, Rowbury recommends keeping a hair sample from each person in your family in a plastic bag in case you’re ever in a situation where DNA identification would be needed. There’s also space for home fingerprinting, which is something I can see the value of but have never bothered to do on my own.

It’s going to take some time to gather all of the information, but filling out your Grab ‘N Go organizer is a smart investment in your family’s future. Pick up your copy on Amazon today.

Photo credit: Amazon