June 29, 2015

Cycle power!

Pedal It! How Bicycles are Changing the World
by Michelle Mulder

Mulder is a cycling enthusiast who pedals nearly everywhere. She frequently mentions her cycling experiences throughout her book; a personal touch that adds interest both to the subject matter and overall tone. Chapters take readers through the invention of the bicycle, the advantages of owning a bicycle, and the many ways bicycles are used around the world. The many photographs complement the text excellently; my favourite is of the Vietnamese goldfish seller!

Highly recommended.

June 26, 2015

Comedy, clowning, and practical jokes

Funny Business
by Helaine Becker

Kids love to laugh and this book serves up laughs aplenty! It reads like a comedy workshop, teaching kids the basics of stand-up routines, clown acts, practical jokes, and cartooning. Improv games, juggling lessons, drawing tips, and recipes are delivered with verve and bounce.

A fun book guaranteed to blast away boredom!

June 24, 2015

Clowning around

The Most Excellent Book of How to be a Clown
by Catherine Perkins

A quick and easy primer on being a clown, this book covers the basics so kids can get clowning right away. After tips on costumes and makeup, it dives immediately into ten different clown acts before ending with a how-to on making needed props. It's probably best to invest in actual clown school, but as an introduction, a book is a good way to test your child's interest.

Be a Clown!
by Ron Burgess

Burgess is a professional clown known as Silly Willy. His how-to book covers the same ground as Perkins' book, but in more detail. He emphasizes practice, timing, and finding the right clown personality. He also has good tips on how to trip or do a pratfall safely, how to perform magic tricks, and how to choose the right clown name.

June 22, 2015

Life under the Big Top

by Linda Granfield

Summer is the time for baseball games, theme parks, and circuses. For those who wonder how circuses began, this book has all the answers. It's jam packed with information about early Greek and Roman circuses, the growth of modern circuses, and all the hoopla associated with circuses - the marketing, the acrobats, the artistry, and the controversies. An entire chapter on clowns will either fascinate or terrify, depending on the reader. 

One of the book's drawbacks is the dense amount of text, which may be intimidating, especially when spread over nearly 100 pages. I can't see kids reading it cover to cover unless they were really interested or working on a research project. Another disappointment is the use of standard, conventional fonts which don't match the excitement of the circus atmosphere.

However, the pages also feature a wealth of photos, paintings, programs, posters, and ticket stubs that kids will want to scrutinize closely. They'll also gain an appreciation for the international appeal of circuses.

June 19, 2015

Get wet!

101 Cool Pool Games for Children: Fun and Fitness for Swimmers of All Levels
by Kim Rodomista

Most kids love water and water-play, so this book is ideal for hours of fun. Many of the games are variations of tag, but there are also imagination games, team games, racing games, water exercises, and even out-of-the-pool games to keep kids happy and healthy. Easy to learn, each game is coded with simple icons indicating skill level (beginner to advanced),  required props (beach balls, water balloons, pool noodles, etc) and amount of physical contact.

June 17, 2015

Olympic diver

Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story
by Paula Yoo

In 1932, when Sammy Lee was twelve-years-old, he could only use the public swimming pool on only one day per week. Segregation affected not only African Americans, but other people of colour, including Korean Americans. However, Sammy had discovered a passion for diving and was determined to compete at the Olympics. His father didn't approve, wanting Sammy to become a doctor instead, which he eventually did. But he never gave up on his dream. 

An inspiring tale of dedication and perseverance for all aspiring athletes.

June 15, 2015

Water ballet

Mermaid Queen: The Spectacular True Story of Annette Kellerman, Who Swam Her Way to Fame, Fortune, & Swimsuit History
by Shana Corey

In 1903, female athletes were rare and female swimming even rarer. After all, it's impossible to swim if you're wearing stockings, bloomers, dresses, and corsets! Along came Annette Kellerman, who believed that swimming was the best sport in the world. Her elegant dips and dives and whirls enchanted audiences as much as her racing suits scandalized them.

A trailblazer, Annette's story is told with appropriately twirly pictures and curly fonts mimicking the allure of the waves. Very effervescent!

June 12, 2015

Dinosaur road trips

The Random House Dinosaur Travel Guide
by Kelly Milner Halls

Dinosaur-obsessed kids will probably want to see Jurassic World (opening today) over and over again. Lure them out of the movie theatre with a road trip to all things dinosaur with this unique travel guide. It's packed with over 300 dinosaur destinations worth visiting across the United States and Canada. There are enough fossils, bones, replicas, rocks, and footprints to keep kids happy all summer. Museums and national parks predominate, but dinosaur theme parks are also included, providing fun, if less authentic, experiences. More dino-related facts can be found in the Bone Digger Bonus segments, as well as stories from paleontologists. The book even includes a dinosaur shopping guide, with listings for dinosaur t-shirts, posters, candies, jewelry, toys, and soap.

June 10, 2015

Great cities

This is London
by M. Sasek

First published in 1959, Sasek's great big guide to the city of London, England is written and illustrated with ample wit and fun. A charming travel book that appeals to all ages. Up-to-date information is included at the end of the book.

Sasek wrote a series of city guides: This Is Edinburgh, This is Hong Kong, This is Munich, This Is New York, This is Paris, This is Rome, This is San Francisco, This Is Texas, This Is Venice, and This is Washington, D.C.

To save shelf space, consider getting This Is the World: A Global Treasury. A compilation, this volume contains abridged versions of Sasek's city and country guides.

June 8, 2015

Bring stories to life

Storybook Travels: From Eloise's New York to Harry Potter's London, Visits to 30 of the Best-Loved Landmarks in Children's Literature
by Colleen Dunn Bates & Susan LaTempa

Good stories are able to transport readers, through their imaginations, into other worlds. While places like Wonderland, the Emerald City, or Narnia aren't real, other places actually exist.  Ride a riverboat like Tom Sawyer, visit Anne Shirley's Haunted Wood, hike Heidi's alps in Switzerland, or look for Ramona's house in Portland. These are just four of the thirty adventures compiled in Storybook Travels. Each chapter has a brief summary of a children's book, a description of the trip as experienced by the authors and their children, and a suggested itinerary with addresses and contact information, including websites.

Fun and accessible, this is an excellent guide to some enchanting, memorable trips that the whole family is sure to enjoy.

Storied City: A Children's Book Walking-Tour Guide to New York City
by Leonard S. Marcus

Marcus is a well-known literary critic and a New-Yorker, so this guide is an excellent book to take along if you're going to NYC with children. There are twenty-one walking tours in total, covering every New York borough. Marcus's travel choices are taken from over 200 fiction and nonfiction children's books, so you're bound to find a tour that will appeal to every age group. There are, of course, a lot of art galleries and museums to visit, but children will be thrilled to see where Stuart Little sailed his boat, the house of Harriet the Spy, or the subway murals by artist Faith Ringgold, illustrator of Tar Beach.

With maps and pictures and interesting facts, Storied City is a handy, portable guide to New York people, places, and history.