Monday, July 30, 2012

65 Short Mysteries You Solve With Science

One Minute Mysteries: 65 Short Mysteries You Solve With Science! has the format I was hoping to find when I reviewed One Minute Mysteries: 65 Short Mysteries You Solve with Math! previously.

Instead of short word problems, these are engaging stories that require some knowledge of science to answer the mystery or solve the problem in the story. As a bonus, the answers are not provided on the same page, the reader must turn the page to get the answer. This does provide a chance for the reader to think before being told the solution. This book was the first of the two to be published so I am not sure why the format changed when they wrote the math book. Perhaps the writers were stronger in science than math and found the stories easier to write.

I am putting the science book on my Christmas list of books to purchase. I was pleasantly surprised after being so disappointed in the math one.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Jouanah A Hmong Cinderella

Jouanah: A Hmong Cinderella tells a unique Cinderella tale. It incorporates some traditional elements like the shoe, while adding ones unique to this tale.

The author notes that in the traditional version of this tale the Cinderella is called Nkauj Nog, which would be pronounced GO-NAH. The translation according to the author is female orphan. The author changed the name to make it easier for American readers to Ntsuag Nos, pronounced JO-a-nah, which is a generic term for orphan that can be male or female.

This version has one of the more unique versions of how the Cinderella character becomes an orphan. In this version, her parents are struggling with their farm and head to the market to buy a cow. Markets being bad they lose their opportunity at the one available cow and head home. The wife offers to allow her husband to use magic to make her the family cow so the family can prosper. Jouanah is a first thrilled to see the family has a cow, until she realizes the sacrifice it required.

As the farm prospers, the father decides to remarry. The stepmother and sister of course prove to be cruel and lazy. They are jealous of the daughter of the house and eventually turn her into the family servant. When the new wife realizes the secret of the cow, her jealousy takes over and she sets out to convince her husband to destroy it. The cow dies of a broken heart before the husband can actually kill it. Her father does not live long after the cow, leaving his daughter's life even more in question.

As with several other versions of this story, the New Year’s festival is the setting for the meeting between the Cinderella character and the Prince. Jouanah like other Cinderella characters is given a challenging task to prevent her from attending the celebration.

In this version she has hidden a piece of cow hide in her Mother's sewing basket. On the third day of the festival, she reaches into the basket to pull out some sewing to keep her occupied and finds the piece of cowhide. As she reflects on her mother's advice, she reaches in for her sewing and finds all the items she will need to attend the celebration.

As is reflective of the culture she does not dance with Shee-Nang, son of the village elder. She watches him play and does catch his eye. She is caught off guard when her stepmother frustrated by her daughter's lack of success with the man, decides to head home. Realizing she must arrive home before her stepmother, she loses her shoe. While this tale does have the young man traveling to find the owner of the shoe, he does not need to fit the shoe to the girl to recognize the girl. She refuses to try on the shoe in an attempt to avoid her stepmother's anger. During dinner, he realizes the trick being played on him and finds his true bride.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

August Free Fun Friday Events 2012

The Highland Street Foundation is offering free fun Friday events during the summer until August 31 at a variety of venues. You can check out their website here. For best results I would suggest consulting with the venue's website to confirm what events are being offered on that date as well as any restrictions. Plan ahead, these events can be very popular and very crowded.


Museum of Fine Arts Boston in Boston

Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge

Amelia Park Children's Museum in Westfield

Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton

Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain


Battleship Cove in Fall River

Berkshire Museumin Pittsfield

Cape Cod Children's Museum in Mashpee

Fruitlands Museum in Harvard

The Sports Museum in Boston


Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston

Edward Gorey House in Yarmouth Port

New Bedford Whaling Museum in New Bedford

Garden in the Woods in Framingham

Concord Museum in Concord


Boston Harbor Island Alliance in Boston

USS Constitution Museum in Charlestown

American Textile Museum in Lowell

Old Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge

Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield


John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum in Boston

Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth

The Discovery Museums in Acton

MASS MoCA in North Adams

EcoTarium in Worcester

Monday, July 23, 2012

Pretty Salma A Little Red Riding Hood Story from Africa

Pretty Salma: A Little Red Riding Hood Story from Africais a West African Red Riding Hood tale taken from Ghana.

In this tale, Salma is sent to the market with a list of items to buy for her Granny. She is given the traditional cautionary comment not to talk to strangers. As she travels, she sings a song, which will prove to be very important later in the story. On her arrival at the market, all goes well and she picks up the items her Granny requested.

The basket on her head grew heavy as the day shortened and she decides to take a short cut home through the "wild side" of town. There she meets Mr. Dog who offers to carry her basket home for her. As the journey continues, he acquires more of her outfit all in the name of helping to lighten her load. Eventually he has a costume he hopes will fool her Granny. As they arrive closer to her home she begins to ask for her items back, but the dog threatens her. Eventually he chases her off and unlike most versions of Red Riding Hood; we discover there is a grandfather in this story.

Salma runs to her grandfather and together they devise a plan to save grandmother from the dog. While Grandmother is curious about many of the dog’s features, she knows her granddaughter will be able to sing the song Salma was singing earlier in the story. While the dog tried he was not able to sing her song. When he tried to learn her song, he was only able to bark. Unfortunately, Grandma does not realize her mistake soon enough. Mr. Dog traps her in her own cooking pot. Thankfully, Grandpa and Salma arrive in time to save her and they are able to enjoy the wonderful things Salma picked up at the market.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Canobie Lake Park 2012 AAA Discount

See the updated 2014 AAA and other Canobie Lake discounts on my blog here.

AAA has finally posted their Canobie Lake Park discount for the 2012 year. You can see the details here.

As with Six Flags you must buy your tickets from AAA in advance to get the discount, either online or at one of their branches, it does not apply at the gates. The discount only applies to adult tickets. There does not appear to be a discount for the children's tickets.

According to the park's website, current adult 2012 ticket prices for Canobie Lake are $33. For those over 60 years old or under 48" the price is $24. Those who enter after 5PM pay $23. Children under 3 can enter the park for free. Parking is still free.

With the AAA discount, adult tickets are $28. While you can buy children's tickets with your adult tickets through AAA there is no additional discount.

Canobie lists places that have coupons for discount admissions here. For those who sign up for Canobie's email here, there are additional discount and special event offers available.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Orphan A Cinderella Story from Greece

The Orphan: A Cinderella Story from Greeceis based on the traditional Greek Cinderella tale of the Orphan. In the authors' notes, they state their orphan is a little less traditional and opts not to wait at home for the prince to come to her.

One interesting point to note, the orphan title does not imply this Cinderella has lost her father, only her mother, which is something unique to this version. While some versions have Cinderella's father die, most do not see her as an orphan as long as her father remains living.

In this version, the Cinderella character is given no other name than the orphan. When life becomes unbearable, she flees to her Mother's grave, where she is given advice from her Mother and special gifts from Mother Nature and her children that she will need if she is to capture her Prince.

As is common in Cinderella stories, the orphan is left behind when the family departs. In this case, she is not allowed to go with the family to attend Church to meet the Prince. The orphan arrives using her magical gifts and with her Mother's warning in mind escapes before the end of the service. The Prince of course is frustrated and decides to find a way to capture the elusive girl. He orders the floor covered with honey and wax across the threshold of the Church. This of course provides the Prince with the missing shoe that so many Cinderella stories require. As expected, the orphan and the Prince are reunited when the shoe fits.

This is another Cinderella tale with no balls or fancy outings. The Prince in this tale appears at Church.

Monday, July 16, 2012

65 Short Mysteries You Solve With Math!

I was a fan of Two-Minute Mysteries series collecting various time versions as both a student and a teacher. I liked the format of presenting a mystery and giving the reader a chance to figure it out before presenting the solution.

When I saw One Minute Mysteries: 65 Short Mysteries You Solve with Math! I was hoping to find the same format, but with stories that focused on mysteries with a math solution.

I would have to say it is a stretch to call these stories mysteries. These are stories designed to be more engaging than the word problems most students encounter in their math books. The stories provide real world problems students might encounter and demonstrate how the children in the stories use math to solve the problems. There is nothing wrong with that format. However, it is misleading to call these stories mysteries. It would be more honest to market this as a book that demonstrates children solving problems with math in real world situations.

I would have preferred more reader interaction. In the original minute mystery genre, the writers expect the readers to try to solve the problem before giving them the answer. In these stories, the reader is not expected to engage in the story. The characters solve the mystery without expecting the child to think about possible solutions. The answers are all provided as part of the story.

The book does provide children with real life practical examples of math in action. It also could be a good resource for children who struggle with word problems. The problems in this book are more engaging than those found in your average text. Having models of other children approaching these problems in a logical manner might provide children with some insight on how to approach problems presented in his/her own environment. It definitely provides students with models of how to approach word problems they will find in textbooks.
I would love to see a series that does combine mystery with math and science. I think there is a market for it.

The Science book has already arrived at the library for me to review so I plan to look at it. Since this is actually the second book in the series, I expect they are probably very similar.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Abadeha The Philippine Cinderella

Abadeha: The Philippine Cinderellais based on a story from pre-colonial Philippine tradition.

In this version Abadeha, calls on a native spirit, Mother Bathala, Creator of the Earth when she is unable to meet the challenges of her cruel and demanding stepmother and help is provided.

She does share the challenging family life presented in many of the Cinderella tales. Her father, devastated at the loss of her mother remarries providing Abadeha with a stepmother and stepsisters. The stepmother not only works her hard, but also provides her with impossible tasks, like changing the colors of hankies without dye or fixing a mat that has been destroyed beyond repair. Each time she prays, she is provided with assistance.

When a beloved pet that the forest spirit provides her with is killed, she is advised to bury the remains at her mother's grave. A tree grows up that provides her with beautiful jewels. There is a somewhat similar Grimm's version of the father bringing a branch that grows into a tree that showers Cinderella with gowns and outfits for her to wear to several of the balls.

The prince in this tale is the son of an island chieftain. He leaves an offering at the tree and tries on one of the rings. The ring will not come off and makes his finger swell. A dream reveals that there is a beautiful girl will release his finger from pain. No shoe or anklet in this story, but the Prince does find his Cinderella and all is well.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Great Divide

Dayle Ann Dodds introduces children to division in The Great Divide: A Mathematical Marathon as racers encounter hazards that leave them divided into groups. Each hazard leaves the group divided in half until there is only one racer remaining to win the race.

I thought Full House: An Invitation to Fractions did a better job in providing children with visual demonstrations of the math concepts and how the math would be represented in numerical form. This is a cute math story, but not nearly as strong as many of the other math picture books I have been reviewing.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Trust Me, Jack's Beanstalk Stinks!

Trust Me, Jack's Beanstalk Stinks!: The Story of Jack and the Beanstalk as Told by the Giant (The Other Side of the Story)is the strongest of the books I have reviewed in this series so far.

Eric Braun makes a great case for the giant. He presents him as a likeable fellow and quickly casts Jack as a thief with a smooth tongue who charms the giant's wife into cheating him. He creates a very believable alternate story and one finds it hard not to feel that the giant's story should be considered more strongly when students hear Jack's tale.

In a fairy tale trial, this would provide a great basis for the giant's defense and open the potential for a trial against Jack.