Monday, September 10, 2018

Collings Foundation: Battle for the Airfield

The Collings Foundation will be hosting their second event of the year Saturday and Sunday October 6-7 8:30-4:30. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for children. You can find more information here.

The Battle for the Airfield is a World War II event that includes the opportunity to tour the Collings collection and to participate in World War II themed activities. There are tents for Allied and Axis troops that you can tour, see and speak with reenactors to get an idea of what life was like for a World War II soldier. The Battle is fought twice once at 11 and again at 3 each day and by all accounts the outcome is pretty much the same all four times with minor alterations that always occur when anything is live. Just a hint the allies always win.

I feel fortunate to live in an area that celebrates history. Growing up I always had opportunities to explore Colonial and Revolutionary War history, sometimes in my school's backyard. Last year I had the pleasure of bringing family to a World War II experience at the Collings Foundation. Despite the pounding rain, it was an amazing day. The younger kids in the family got to explore exhibits and visit and talk to renanactors from allied and axis camps. Considering the pounding rain visiting the tents was a relief from the wet. Again despite the weather what impressed me most was how willing the reanactors were to answer the children's questions no matter how basic. They treated them with respect and answered them, providing the kids with age appropriate information based on the questions aksed.

The rain delayed the Battle as the planes were having trouble getting into the air. However the kids were interested in pointing out where they'd noticed the tanks from our previous visit during the Spring tour. They wondered if they'd get to see them in action during the fight.

It is a war, people do get killed in the battle although nothing too gruesome. For those with noise issues it gets loud at times with the artillary going off. I suggest chairs or blankets for watching the Battle although with the rain nothing made it too comfortable.

We are planning a trip back this year hoping for better weather and the opportunity to really see and take in all the experiences offered. If the kids enjoyed it this much in the rain I can only imagine it will be even better if we can get their on a rain free day.

That being said the rain did get one of the older kids to comment how awful it must have been to live like that when it rained, so perhaps the rain helped bring some reality to the situation.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Secrets of American History World War I

I keep coming back to the Secrets of American History titles to review because I find myself drawn to a history series that tries to write independent readers for children to read about history on their own and dives into areas often not found in other children's books on the topic.

Fearless Flyers, Dazzle Painters, and Code Talkers!: World War I (Secrets of American History)has probably the best introduction to the time period I've read in the series to date. World War I is a tough topic to cover with children. Clearly within a leveled reader format much has to be condensed and left out, but I thought this book did a good job of picking and choosing what to write about in the introduction to World War I.

From the introduction the author moves on to a discussion of camouflage. The author discusses the difference in needs between army camouflage which was already being employed and the needs of the Navy who were struggling to avoid German U-boat attacks. The writing was quite engaging and while reading I texted a family member with information on the book as her sons have been fascinated by this topic and would enjoy reading the book. The author describes various experiments that failed and then describes how zebras and Picasso led to a break through. I'm not going to give it all away. You need an incentive to check out this book. While I'm well past the target age, I rather enjoyed it.

From Dazzle Camouflage we move on to Choctaw Code Talkers. This is one of the many things I love about reading and reviewing history books, there are always new things to learn. I've always associated Native American Code Talkers with World War II. However, it turns out the original Code Talkers solved a communication problem the American command was having with intercepted messages. The first recruits were from the Choctaw tribe. By utilizing their own language and creating a code for words that didn't exist in their language they were able to communicate in a code the Germans couldn't understand. I was so interested in this story I went online to read more.

The last story reflect the diversity the series has been known for and it tells the story of Eugene Bullard, an African American pilot who flew for the French since he was not allowed to fly for the Americans. His story is an amazing one, but again what I love about this series, one not often found in a children's series on World War I.

I believe this is the strongest book in the series I've read to date. The introduction was tighter and the individual stories remain strong and engaging.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Sudbury Colonial Faire

The Sudbury Militia will be hosting a Colonial Faire on the grounds of the historic Wayside Inn On Saturday September 29. The Faire runs from 10-4 and you can visit a colonial encampment, meet militia members, see period military, craft, and dancing demonstrations. The cost is $2 for adults and free to children under 12.

At noon watch a parade of the invitation only fife and drum corps followed by a friendly competition as each group is then invited to perform individually for the crowd.

I've brought several family members out to the event and the kids especially enjoy visiting the camps and asking questions from both sides. It's a great chance to see a bit of history off the pages and a fun event for the family.

For more information check here and here.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Medea Tells All

Medea Tells All: A Mad, Magical Love (The Other Side of the Myth)is a great companion for students reading Jason and the Golden Fleece as it attempts to tell the story from Medea's perspective with a little bit of humor.

I find these "other side of the story" type books to be useful in teaching perspective. Some are better written than others and this falls into the good category. Medea begins the story by explaining that she didn't even like Jason when this whole story began. However, she got caught up in a revenge plot of Hera's who then used Aphrodite to cast a love spell on her. She puts all the blame for the rest of her actions to help Jason on the Gods suppressing her free will.

While the story does give a summary of the original Jason story, I think it would be best to read the original myth before reading this one as it will increase the child's ability to compare and contrast the two stories. There are a variety of options available for children.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

You Choose Greek Myths The Epic Adventures of Odysseus

You may wonder why I keep choosing to review the You Choose series. I have no connection to the publishers or any of the authors. However, I do find the concept to be an intriguing one. Children exploring, history, mythology, and traditional tales and determining if any of their choices actually change the outcome of their stories. If they have the opportunity to write this kind of format would they make greater changes or would they realize it changes the books from learning opportunities to alternate history fantasies? It is a unique format and I'm continuing to enjoy exploring. Clearly if your child shows not interest I wouldn't suggest forcing the books. Equally, I wouldn't suggest You Choose as a curriculum. The books were never designed for that. However, they are an interesting support that allows students to look at situations just a little differently.

In this volume we explore the myth of Odysseus after the Trojan Horse on his way home to Ithaca. This is why I suggest these books are better as an add on than a curriculum. This book is far more interesting for students who know the story of Odysseus and how the story is supposed to happen. As one contemplates making choices, it is easier to see if any choices made will ultimately effect the story or is fate set, the fix is in so to speak. The first choice the reader is given is to choose which God to make an offering to as Odysseus heads home to Ithaca as a thanksgiving for having won and for a safe trip home. You can choose Poseidon, Athena, or Zeus. Those familiar with the story will understand the choices and may still have fun selecting a risky choice. However, being familiar they will also be more likely to understand the outcome of that choice as well.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales Big Bad Ironclad!

As I've mentioned in previous reviews graphic novels are not my favorite form of reading, but when written well they are an excellent means of motivating readers to explore information they might not be as readily interested in when presented in traditional print formats. This has led me to explore the Nathan Hale series to see how useful it would be to educators and parents looking for historical resources that would appeal to readers already interested in graphic novel formats.

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: Big Bad Ironclad!is the second book in the series and set in the Civil War. If you are familiar with the naval history of the Civil War than you can probably guess the subject matter of this book, if not the book is likely better read after having read a little bit about the topic as it jumps right in to the war and this part of the war quickly. While some students might adapt quickly without any background knowledge of this part of the war, it may leave others less interested.

The book brushes over Lincoln's election and the opening of the war and moves right into the Naval history of the Civil War. The book is unique in that most children's books on the Civil War focus heavily on land not on naval encounters beyond that referenced in the title of the clash between the Monitor and the Merrimac. The information is interesting, but I'm not sure if it is my challenge with the graphic novel format or the way I look for material to be laid out for students to process it, but it felt like there was lots of information just bursting out everywhere and not as organized as some of the other books in the series. The book is dense with factual information and it isn't stuff common to the topic for kids books, but it just was too dense and not as well laid out as I'd hoped. Again it could be my challenge with reading the graphic novel format, although I haven't had that problem with other titles in the series. The other titles flowed more smoothly and the information seemed to not burst out all at once but come out in an organized flow across the pages. Not sure I worded that well, but I walked away thinking this book was worth reading, but it took more effort than the other books I've read in the series.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The Story of the First World War for Children 1914-1918

The Story of the First World War for Children: 1914-1918sets out to explain WWI in a child friendly format that actually makes it a good resource for many age groups.

What impressed me first was the two page spread that explains the origins of the war. This has often been my biggest complaint about children's books that cover wars. In an effort to make the material accessible to children the causes of any war, but specifically this one seem to be very vague and confusing.

Using small panels and lots of photographs this is the best of the books I've reviewed so far in discussing the origins of the war. I was amazed to see a small panel that goes back and explains the tensions between France and Prussia left from the Franco Prussian war and tying this to future alliances. I've rarely seen the Franco Prussian War mentioned in a children's book and it was wonderful to see them use it in a format that has such limited space.

I'm a huge fan of books that include relevant maps for children. Some are obscure and hard to read, thus are often ignored. This map laid out the alliances and neutral countries of Europe in 1914. The map is accompanied by text boxes that explain the alliances and why different countries were drawn to different alliances. I was impressed that the author managed to sum up the material in a child friendly format without over simplifying the material. The maps were tied directly to the information being presented and thus more likely to be read and used by parents, teachers, and students using the book to understand the physical relationships of the countries prior to the war

The book is set up in two page topical photograph spreads. The following topics are included Europe Divided, Gearing Up for War, The Peace is Shattered, Europe Goes to War, The British Army, The Fighting Begins, The Eastern Front, The Western Front, The French Army, Digging In, Trench Warfare, The Great Guns, The German Army, The Gallipoli Campaign, The War at Sea, War in Africa, Chemical Warfare, Italy Enters the War, War in the Air, 1916 A Year of Battles, The First Tanks, America Joins the War, 1917 No End in Sight, War in the Desert, Women at War, 1918 The Last Great Battles, 1918 The War Ends, Animals at War, Legacy of War, and The Art of War. I try to include the topic headings as these are not often available when you are looking to buy a book and if you don't have the chance to preview before you buy it is nice to know what the book covers.

Some of these topics are covered in almost any children's book about World War I and I don't plan on discussing where this book duplicates other's efforts. However, it does have some unique content I quite liked. While most mention the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand as one of the final acts that lead to war, this book actually explains again using photographs and text boxes what happened and why. The discussion of the Black Hand being part of the Bosnian separatists movement is just not something you find in most children's books on the topic of World War I. While keeping the content accurate the authors manage to present the information in a way most elementary students could grasp. Again I also think this makes it a strong resource for older students, too.

I found the section devoted to Russia's role in the early part of the war interesting as well. When we hear about Russian it is usually about Russia making peace with the Central powers as the Revolution over takes the country. It is almost as if knowing the outcome we skip the story of how we got there and do little to address Russia's role in the war. This book devotes a two page spread to how things fell apart for the Russians on the Eastern front. Clearly it isn't an in depth study but it is a good fit for a picture book format and honestly more than you will find in longer children's books devoted to the topic of WWI.

The section on the Gallipoli Campaign was also unique to this book. Turkey's role in the war is also not as well covered as the Europeans in children's history books. This is only one battle, but it does remind us to discuss the role of Turkey as a central power in the war.

War in Africa was another important section as World War I was really the beginning of the end for European Colonial power in Africa. This book did a good job in addressing how Germany lost its colonies. One thing I appreciated was the author including the colonies" names for historical reference and the modern countries names. My one criticism is while the author included a colonial map of Africa with a key to demonstrate which European countries controlled the colonies, it would have been extremely beneficial to have a modern map showing where those colonies had evolved into modern countries. While the names help, maps are always a useful tool.

The role of Italy in the war was also interesting and might surprise children since they switched sides in the next war. The book provides a summary of the battles and does a nice job of explaining the choices made by Italy which were complex. The author does a great job giving a general explantion of the role of Italy without over simplyfying.

Last I thought showing the children the recruitment posters and one picture painted by a soldier from the time was unique and important as it demonstrates what governments were using to motivate people to join the fight and how that fight was expressed in the art of those who fought. I wished they had access to more art from those who fought.

The other sections were equally strong, but not unique. The material does appear in other children's books on the topic and one can argue which children will appreciate, understand, or process better. I chose to focus this review on what I found to be unique about this book. While a picture book it is a powerful way to educate children about World War I.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

The Read Aloud Handbook

I went and borrowed a copy of The Read-Aloud Handbook: Seventh Editionback in June because while he's retired, I knew he'd updated the book since I'd last read it and I wanted to see what he had to say about reading aloud. This last edition was published in 2013, but he had come into the modern age of the Internet and technology. I'd originally read his book as an undergraduate and purchased it as part of a number of shower gifts for people. Then for some reason I'd stopped.

What I've always liked about his premise is that it is a positive one. It always starts with the premise it isn't too late to start something with your kids. If you didn't start when they were babies, don't panic you aren't an evil parent, you can still work on it. He's also realistic, if you have a high school student you've never read to and the teen isn't interested it probably isn't a battle you want to fight.

He rights a balanced approach for parents and teachers. You will find advice throughout the book geared to both parents and teachers and he often explains how techniques can or can't be used across both areas. I specifically liked his discussion about getting primary teachers to read chapter books along with picture books to children. Equally, I found the discussion of SSR or Sustained Silent Reading at home and in school an important one. It is one he's refused to back down on regardless of how the times have changed since I first read his early book and I admire that about him.

I honestly don't remember the advice to Dad's in the earlier book I read, but in fairness it's been a long time and my copy is long gone to someone else who needed it. This I found to be an important chapter. He spoke kindly to Dads in a way that would encourage and empower them to get involved and become a part of their children's literacy process rather than trying to abuse or shame them into taking part. I think encouragement tends to yield longer term goals then shame. Some father's may not read or take his advice, but for those who want to do better but aren't sure how to get started, I thought he wrote a couple of supportive sections that could lead a father to understanding the importance of his role in helping his child to want to learn and to enjoy reading.

There are lots of book lists out there, free and in other paid formats both print and online. I've always thought his selection was a great way to encourage parents to read. My one disappointment is the original reader had more suggestions for the upper elementary student. I remember discovering Goodnight Mr. Tom after reading through the book the first time for a college assignment and needing to choose books I hadn't read for a project. The books in this last book don't seem to have quite the range of the older book I had.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Ancient Myths The Wooden Horse of Troy

I became familiar with John Malam through his work on the You Wouldn't Want to series. When I realized he'd become a part of a series on mythology, of course I had to explore it. The Wooden Horse of Troy (Ancient Greek Myths)is Malam's retelling of the tale Of Helen of Troy and the Trojan Horse.

If you have read some of Malam's You Wouldn't Want to books you will see the same approach to giving you all the relevant details of the myth, but still shaping it with some humor and fun to keep children engaged in reading the material. This is not a graphic history, but Peter Rutherford's illustrations do help carry the story as they are cartoonish, amusing, demonstrate the emotions of the characters in the myth, and help the reader to connect to the story.

One feature I rather liked in this series is Ask the Storyteller. Each of these provides the reader with a little more insight into background, future actions, motivation for characters actions, and in general helps the reader to understand pieces of the story that aren't directly a part of the myth.

While clearly a picture book, like the You Wouldn't Want to series this book would also be great with older readers who may not have a background in mythology and might not have a high interest. The information is all there, but the illustrations and the format are engaging.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Olympians vs. Titans an Interactive Mythological Adventure

Olympians vs. Titans: An Interactive Mythological Adventure is an entry in the You Choose Ancient Greek Myths series.

Interaction between reader and the material is one of the big reasons I keep selecting the different versions of these types of books to review. I believe strongly that humor and choice help students to connect to the material, thus generating a natural curiosity and interest in learning more about a topic.

Once through one version of the story a reader can go back and choose a different character or continue with the same character but make different choices to see how those choice effect outcome. How choices, decisions, and even the lack of decisions, the failure to choose effect outcomes is a very important life lesson for children and I think this is one series that taps into a unique way of demonstrating how choices change sometimes just an individual's life but other times the course of a much larger group of people.

With the mythology series the publishers have moved to giving students the means to explore how Greek mythology is effected by the choices individuals make and how those choice can result in a variety of different outcomes based on additional choices.

In Olympians vs. Titans readers can follow the path of Cronus, Zeus, or Prometheus. In following any of the paths the reader will get quite a bit of background information not only about the character chosen, but about the background of both the Titans and the Olympians. While a child could read and enjoy this book without having any previous experience with the myths surrounding the battles between Titan leaders and the Olympians, I suspect the book would be more meaningful with some background knowledge. This will help the child understand the choices being made and why the choices matter.

If you are expecting a book in which the Titans win providing a truly alternate mythology this isn't the one for you. In certain cases there are changes based on the paths taken. This is one of the reasons it is best to have some background with the original myths to be able to notice the changes. However I didn't find a scenario in which the Titans win leaving the Olympians in Tartarus. The big picture mythology stays unaltered regardless of the path you take. The choice result in smaller alterations to the story lines.

I was pleased with this entry into the You Choose series. I wasn't sure how well the format would work with mythology. In most of the books I've reviewed we are dealing with minor, unknown characters who can make different choices without alternating the ultimate historical time line. If a fictional character for instance chooses not to do something, the event will still occur in history, the choices will play out in the fictional life of the character created for the You Choose story. However, with mythology, the characters being written about have made specific choices that are written into the mythology that create a specific story line. Altering that story line and staying true to the myth is challenging. I thought the author handled it well.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

How to Live Like a Medival Knight

Follow the adventures of Gilbert Marshall in A Medieval Knight (How to Live Like.)as he takes you on a journey with him to become a knight.

We begin with an age appropriate introduction to medieval society. The author provides lots of picture support for what are complicated concepts and manages to explain without over simplifying the ideas. Gilbert talks about his life as a page and what it is like to live in a castle. We follow him as he is knighted and we learn more about the arms and armor of the time. Gilbert then goes on to explain about the purpose of tournaments before going on to discuss war in the Middle Ages.

For a picture book this book provides quite a bit of information for a child on what it would take to become a knight. While most younger children would find this a read aloud book, the book is heavily supported with pictures and labels to help children start to what might be new vocabulary for the time period.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Secrets of American History: Heroes Who Risked Everything for Freedom

I'm continuing to read and review Ready to Read's leveled reader history series because I do think it is important to have independent reading resources available for children that provide interesting engaging accurate material.

As I read Heroes Who Risked Everything for Freedom: Civil War (Secrets of American History)I continue to find the same strengths and weaknesses. When the book tries to discuss the large topic, in this case the causes for the Civil War, it does the series a disservice in oversimplifying the topic. It would have been best to focus on what they do well in telling the individual stories. The series continues to focus heavily on spies and intrigue, which I'm sure engages even some reluctant readers to pick up the book to find more.

The important part about these stories is they are engaging, but they fill gaps not always found in traditional books on the topic. While there are many books written on the amazing work Harriet Tubman did with the Underground Railroad, this book covers that material less often found in children's books about her war work as a spy and guide using her knowledge of the South to gain valuable intelligence for the Union. The section on Harriet Tubman alone makes this book a great read.

The book continues on to discuss the contributions of a several other African Americans who risked much for the Union cause and to promote freedom for slaves. Mary Touvestre is credited with stealing plans for an ironclad ship and bringing them to the secretary of the Navy in Washington, D.C. The book goes on to tell the story of Mary Elizabeth Bowser a freed slave, who risked her freedom by posing as a slave in the home of Jefferson Davis. She was a member of a spy ring formed by the woman who freed her. The next story is of a husband and wife who worked together, the husband gathering intelligence through his job as a cook and the wife using her laundry as a means of communication. The last story I found to be the most daring. Robert Smalls, a slave in South Carolina worked on a Confederate warship and through careful observation of the officers was able to steal the ship while they were ashore.

I'm still impressed with this series as a means to introduce early readers to history. The general history is weak, but the individual stories are gems. They bring the history alive. The limited format of a leveled reader clearly creates challenges, but I still think better editing could improve the general history portions of these books. However, the individual stories in this book are stories most younger readers won't find in books written for their age group and for that reason I continue to like this series.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

You Choose Greek Myths The Trojan War

I've become a fan of the You Choose series as a support for history, mythology, and traditional stories studies. I say support because I wouldn't suggest them as books to read at the introduction of a topic, but they are great extension activities when students have had exposure to the subject and wonder what if? Would different choice have created different outcomes? What was this event like for different people living at the same time?

The Trojan War: An Interactive Mythological Adventure (You Choose: Ancient Greek Myths) fits that criteria. It provides students with a great way to explore the Trojan war after they've had some exposure to the topic. It would not be my suggestion for a first book on the topic.

In this volume children can follow the path of Trojan Hero, Theris and Peleus's future son, or that of a Greek hero. Each path requires choices along the route and an understanding of the Trojan War will make the choices more interesting even if one chooses paths that alternate from the original history. Readers can go back and make new choices or follow the path to the end. They can also choose an new path when they reach the end of the first journey following all three paths if they choose to get a full idea of what the event was like for all three characters.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Where Poppies Grow A World War I Companion

Where Poppies Grow: A World War I Companionis a picture book about World War I suitable for all ages. I know more people are using picture books with older children, but this book lends itself very well as it uses pictures, drawings, and pictures of historical artifacts from the period to help illustrate what life was like for those who lived during World War I.

This book takes an interesting approach to the topic. It presents a brief vague discussion about the origins of World War I, but then it dives into what life was like for those who lived it with a heavy emphasis on the lives of Canadians. The book is divided into 2 page sections with the text primarily used to discuss the pictures. The sections are titled Kits and Kilts, To England's Green Fields, Across the Channel to Flanders and the Trenches, The Routine of Daily Life, Over the Top, On Flanders Fields, Warfare on the Seas, And in the Air, You Have Suffered Terribly, Propaganda and Patriotism, Keep the Home Fires Burning, A Child's World, Mum's the Word, The Poppy Poem, Angels, Statues, and Songs in the Night, Spies, Traitors, Or Not?, Man's Best Friend, Dear Cora A Soldier Doesn't Return, Dear Amy A Soldier Does Return, The Budding of Remembrance, and In Solemn Tribute

While many people do use children's books with older children what I thought made this book unique is the topics and the pictures chosen do make it a more useful book for a wider range of ages. The material is suitable for younger children as it doesn't dwell long on the harsher realities of war. It is unique for older students in the materials it uses to discuss the topics. The book begins with an 8th grade graduation photograph and the caption makes it clear that this may be the final education some of these students will ever have because they will not return from the war. For students closer in age to these children pictured it is a connection younger students may not make.

The pictures are the outline of the story and the text supports the pictures. The pictures aren't generic photographs of the trenches, but they are chosen to provide the reader with a feel for confinement both armies lived under and the challenges and dangers that created.

I was quite pleased to see how much attention the role of the female nurses got in this book. Field Hospital nursing in war conditions was a dangerous, physically, and mentally challenging role for women who were pushing their way out of traditional Victorian roles and looking for new roles in society. It was a pleasant surprise to see a prominent role in a World War I picture books for the women who served.

For those of you looking for a history of World War I with the battles fought, causes for the War, ending with the Treaty of Versailles, this is not that book. It is a history of the people who fought and those who supported them on the home front. It tries to explain what life was like if you were living at the time of the war. In an age where we have come to expect instant communication this book reminds us about a time when soldiers where burying phone lines to communicate battle plans on the front. The only way to communicate with loved ones fighting was by censored mail and while we likely can't imagine living like that, it was actually pretty advanced technology for the time period. It is good to remember sometimes what life was like for others.

What I enjoyed most about the book was the blend of personal stories from letters, postcards, and artifacts people kept from the war. It makes the book an interesting and engaging read, not just for children. I thought these stories were the strongest in the book.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018


Barbarians!is Steven Kroll's introduction to Barbarians in a picture book format.

The book is divided into four sections, the Goths, the Huns, the Vikings, and the Mongols. Each section describes the leaders, territories, relationship with Rome, culture, successes and ultimately demise of each group.

The format was particularly helpful for comparing and contrasting the various groups. The maps and timeline were a great tool for understanding which groups lived where, when. I also liked the picture of the Nine Worlds of the Norse World.

This is the type of resource I've been looking for as an add on to a Middle Ages curriculum.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Animal Adventures Bolton Massachusetts

A funny thing happened on our way to the Robin's Hood Fair for our second trip with family last May, it rained and they closed the fair. Faced with several cars of disappointed children and let's be honest adults we pulled out phones and began searching for a substitute destination. Thankfully, one family member remembered serving as a chaperone on her then high school senior's Kindergarten trip to Animal Adventures and suggested it would make a great alternate trip for our disappointed group. For those of you who are also interested in going the website is here. You can find information about pricing, hours, directions and additional programs available.

Well not only was it a great alternate destination for our animal and reptile loving family members it was likely a better destination than the one we'd planned as this was all activity all the time. There was little time spent waiting with no interaction or something to do.

When we arrived I wasn't really sure what to make of the place. This is one of the times to follow that old phrase about not judging a book by its cover. It doesn't look very big from the outside, but there is a world of wonder inside if you have kids that like creatures.

While they normally have set show hours of 11, 1, and 3, due to the increased volume, which will happen when a fair unexpectedly closes, they added a show, which was perfect for our family because we didn't have to wait until the next show that wouldn't have started until 1. We arrived too late to make the 11 show.

The kids were constantly engaged by the staff to see, touch and learn about various creatures. I will confess to having avoided the snakes and the reptiles, but looking at one of the books for the youngest nephew's homeschool science program next year there is a lesson about the spines of a porcupine and he's actually seen an touched them. What an amazing experience to bring into his nature study next year.

Along with the indoor exhibits there are also some outdoor places to interact with animals including rabbits and goats. This was a huge hit with our group.

For those with active ones another big hit for our group was the outdoor play structures. While we had a little light rain it cleared, which I'm sure the Faire wished they'd known would happen. The kids were spent breaks between visiting buildings and after we were done with animals playing on the wooden castle and the pirate ship which included swings and slides. These play areas were a huge bonus as the kids could burn off some energy in an appropriate manner.

All in all this was an amazing find and we will be back. We've done large zoo trips with the extended family and this was different because it was smaller. You didn't feel exhausted trying to get to see everything in a day. You could see it all in a few hours. It was much more personalized as it is designed for the staff to interact with visitors and to help them learn more about the creatures through engagement with them. We had a wide range of ages from Kindergarten through high school and nobody ever seemed bored. That is a rare situation when we make these multi-family trips as it is hard to find one activity that reaches all ages, but they all seemed fascinated by the creatures they were able to meet. This was one of our most successful outings, even if accidental.