Sunday, May 15, 2016

Better Days

I should be writing reviews for books I have received the past couple of months to review, but my desire to write has been stalled. (So if you sent me a book, I haven't forgotten about you. I promise.)

An accumulation of a million excuses has dried up my drive to share the books that continue to shape my daughters' worlds. While my thoughts can't seem to formulate into complete sentences these past couple of months, I have replaced writing with running. Running to find myself and where I belong in this world.

I am thankful for the puppy (Bretagne) we adopted from Angels Among Us Pet Rescue because she has shown me what pure joy is when running. We sprint up hills and splash in streams. It isn't a chore to run, when I run with her. She smiles when we run.

I decided to train for the Disney Marathon in January of 2017 with Team in Training. So many times, early in the morning as we run through the trails of Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield, I am overwhelmed with the spirits of those who have lost their lives as the fog lifts from the fields. Sometimes, Bretagne will stop dead stride and stare, as if she has seen a spirit. Sounds hokey, I am sure. However, somewhere around 4000 people died during the battles that happened during the Civil War on that mountain, so I imagine it is possible. I think a lot about life and death. I think about friends and family I have lost along the way, especially those that have lost their battle with cancer. Cancer is such a horrific illness, it makes me wonder if it is any different that walking into a bayonet, how many men lost their lives on the trails I run.

This morning, as I was running, I ended up wanting to tack on an extra half mile, so we turned down a path that I had never been down before today. As I turned onto the trail, the song Better Days by Eddie Vedder came on my iPod.  The trail was magical, lush with green moss, a flowing stream, and flush with wildlife that that hadn't been disturbed yet by runners that morning. We saw a beautiful white owl take flight, and the sadness that had been inside of me seemed to be replaced with hope. Running for a cause, even if I will only make a small bit of a difference seems to give meaning to the thousands of steps that I take each day.

"I'm running... from something
I'm running towards the day... wide awake
all whispered... once quiet
now rising to a scream... right in me
I'm fallin'... free fallin'
world's calling me... up off my knees
oh, I'm soaring... yeah, and darling
you'll be the one that I can need..... still be free
our future's paved with better days." Eddie Vedder- Better Days



If you want to check out my fundraising page, please check it out: http://bit.ly/runjennay.
If you choose to donate, please know that during my runs, I will run for the people in your life that have been affected by cancer, in hopes for better days.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Take me out to the ballgame! Books about baseball review


When I was a little girl, I played for our town's softball league. (I mean I mostly stood in the outfield picking flowers.) I was actually really bad at softball, and I can remember my coach begging me to not swing because I just couldn't make contact with the ball. The only thing I could do was bunt because I could outrun the ball to the base. Even though I was horrible, my dad loved watching us play. When he got sick years later, and my younger brother was still in high school, I knew it killed him that he could no longer throw a baseball around in the backyard. And I am a little sad my brother had to miss out on all the hours I used to spend with my dad tossing the ball back and forth. Had these two books been published when my siblings and I were little, I am sure my dad would have loved reading them to us.


(Time Inc. Books, April 2016, ages 3-6)

  • Grade Level: Preschool - 1
  • Lexile Measure: 470
  • Series: Sports Illustrated Kids
  • Hardcover: 48 pages
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1618931679
  • ISBN-13: 978-1618931672

About the Book

This all-star lineup tells the story of baseball so that youngest fans can understand it. Perfect for beginning readers, the pages feature straightforward text, fun images, and colorful Sports Illustrated photographs to share the excitement of Major League Baseball. There's even full glossary of essential baseball terms and phrases to inspire a love of America's favorite pastime.

My Review 


My First Book of Baseball is an introduction to baseball for any kid interested in learning about the sport. The book reads like an how to guide, explaining all the rules of the game. Each page contains a combination of real photographs of baseball and illustrations to drive home the concepts of the game. Each page is full of color and printed on high quality paper, making it attractive to even the youngest of readers. 

I read the book again tonight with my youngest daughter. She has had no exposure to baseball, so she was a good litmus test at how well the book explains the sport. Reading it with her, I did find some of the terminology used in the book potentially confusing. My almost four year old could not really grasp the concepts of "offense" and "defense." Even though the book defined the terms, these words were used in the book before they were explained. I kept having to stop and explain things, like the term bullpen, as we read through the book. However, I think that for kids who have already been exposed to this sport and enjoy playing or watching it, I think this book would make a fantastic addition to a home library. I plan on donating it to my daughter's school because I know many of the kids that attend the school would enjoy looking through the pages of this book over and over again.




(Time Inc. Books, April 2016, ages 6-14)

About the Book 

Take a home run of a journey through time with this history of America's passion for baseball that captures every aspect of the sport from then to now. How have baseballs, gloves, uniforms, and even rules changed, and what did we do before instant replay? This look at how baseball grew up through the years appeals to a wide range of baseball-loving readers. 
  • Grade Level: 1 - 9
  • Lexile Measure: 1150
  • Hardcover: 80 pages
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1618931423
  • ISBN-13: 978-1618931429

My Review 

The book Baseball Then to Wow! is a collection of interesting facts and figures about the game of baseball all contained within the glossy and vibrant pages of a hardcover book. Baseball Then to Wow! is definitely for any kid who has a love for the game and wants to learn everything there is to know about the sport. I could imagine kids obsessively reading this book over and over again to memorize all the fascinating tidbits. I really enjoyed when the book talked about the changes in technology over the years. Seeing the improvement in technology for the fields, stadiums, bats, and balls over time really helped me to put in perspective how science plays a role even in the sports we play. I recommend this book for the baseball obsessed youth. It would make a great gift for a player as the school team seasons draw to a close.


FTC Required Disclosures:
 *I received a review copy from the author free of charge. All opinions expressed in this review represent my honest opinions about the book. **This post contains affiliate links to Amazon. If you purchase the books through these links, I receive a small portion of the payment, which I use to support this blog. Thanks for your support!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Animal Planet's Animal Bites Books- Where Young Readers Discover Nature




I am so very excited to share these two, newly published books from Time Inc. and Animal Planet. These books, for the past month, have become staples in our house for reading, exploration, and contemplation about the world around us.

Animal Planet Polar Animals (Animal Bites Series)

  • Author: Animal Planet and Laaren Brown
  • Age Range: 7 - 10 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Lexile Measure: 850
  • Series: Animal Bites
  • Flexibound: 80 pages
  • Publisher: Animal Planet (March 1, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 161893161X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1618931610

 

 

About the Book:

With more than 200 gorgeous animal photos of penguins, polar bears, sea lions, walruses, reindeer and others, Animal Planet Polar Animals is a fun, habitat-by-habitat guide that provides kids in the first years of schooling with the perfect bite-sized view of their favorite animals living in both polar climates. Arranged thematically with focus on animal behavior and family relationships, young readers will explore sections about animal bodies, baby animals, food, play time, conservation, and more. Special book features designed for this age group include Quick Bites sidebars with cool animal facts, simple infographics, and illustrated maps of the coldest places on Earth.

Animal Planet Ocean Animals (Animal Bites Series)

  • Age Range: 7 - 10 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Lexile Measure: 860
  • Series: Animal Bites
  • Flexibound: 80 pages
  • Publisher: Animal Planet (March 1, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1618931628
  • ISBN-13: 978-1618931627

About the Book: 

With more than 200 gorgeous animal photos of sharks, whales, clown fish, jelly fish, dolphins, and others, Animal Planet Ocean Animals is a fun, habitat-by-habitat guide that provides kids in the first years of schooling with the perfect bite-sized view of their favorite ocean-dwelling animals. Arranged thematically with focus on animal behavior and family relationships, young readers will explore sections about animal bodies, baby animals, food, play time, conservation and more. Special book features designed for this age group include Quick Bites sidebars with cool animal facts, simple infographics, and illustrated maps of Earth's watery environments.

Miss M's Review (age 8)


In both books, I really loved the real photographs. Also, I like how the pictures have labels to explain more about each of the animals. Another thing I love is that the books have activities, places to visit, other recommended books to read, and websites to visit listed at the end of each book. I really like when the books explain what animals say and how to draw animals.

My Review

With the push in schools for children to read more non-fiction titles, there are so many publishers that are rushing to print books that are a complete bore to read for the sake of saying they meet "common core" standards. I know because my daughter, who is in third grade, brings them home and complains how terrible they are to read. Nothing aggravates me more than when young children at the beginning of their educational careers lose their love of reading because of boring texts. However, this new series from Animal Planet is like a breath of fresh air in the non-fiction section of our library. The images contained within this book are phenomenal. There are large, full page photos of animals printed on thick, glossy paper. The quality is not only in the images, but also in the writing and physical pages of the book that bring these creatures to life. While the recommended ages for these books state 7 to 10 years, my three year old has spent hours pouring over the pictures and asking me to read the captions to her. She even brought them with her sister's soccer practice a couple of times and all the little kids poured over the pages of the books while their siblings played. 

The content of these books is also excellent quality. I found the captions next to the pictures to be chock full of interesting tidbits about the animals featured in the books. The information provided is not just interesting, but there is a lot of really great science hidden into the pages of these books. Kids will learn about hydro-thermal vents, the zones of the ocean, migration patterns, and so many other fantastic concepts that teachers could use to incorporate the books into their science lessons.

What makes these books even better is that the publisher sent along these fantastic printables to supplement the series.
Who doesn't want to learn all about the different types of penguins? I mean, my youngest cannot get over the fact that there is an actual Macaroni Penguin. Here she thought macaroni was just the only thing she would eat. 



And the following two images are examples of the pages my oldest fell in love with in the books.


At the end of each book there are fun activity suggestions that include arts and crafts, physical activity, and dramatic play.  My artistic kids are always looking for inspiration, and these books provide ample extension activities to allow the books to extend into hours of play.


A portion of the proceeds will benefit Animal Planet's R.O.A.R. (Reach Out. Act. Respond.) project which partners with leading animal organization to make the world a better place for domestic and wild animals.
FTC Required Disclosures:
 *I received a review copy from the author free of charge. All opinions expressed in this review represent my honest opinions about the book. **This post contains affiliate links to Amazon. If you purchase the books through these links, I receive a small portion of the payment, which I use to support this blog. Thanks for your support!
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