Monday, April 30, 2018

AAA Discount: The Butterfly Place

The Butterfly Place is rather self defining. If you want to go to a place and see the amazing world of butterflies Westford, Massachusetts is a good place to head for adults and children. You can find more information here.

Some things to consider when visiting, they keep the temperature quite high for the butterflies so expect to be warm. If it is cold outside, wear layers that can be removed. The gardens aren't huge, so if you want to avoid crowds off peak times are best for visits as the gardens can fill quickly. You might want to talk to the kids about butterflies landing on them if this might be an issue for them. It is most likely to happen to them.

This is a fairly low tech chance to experience nature. It is not a hands on experience like the Children's Discovery Museum, it is a chance to observe a wide variety of butterflies in a garden environment with a few additional exhibits. However, the main experience is watching and looking for butterflies. The people who leave disappointed often don't seem to have researched the venue before visiting. While this is an indoor garden, if your kids like to be outside and learn about nature they will likely enjoy the experience. If they get bored without lots of activities to do then this might not be the venue for your outing. You know your kids.

This has long been a favorite destination on DH's side of the family. While it may feel like Spring let alone summer may never arrive, I like to start looking at places where we might be able to bring together what is a rather large extended family for different kinds of activities that are active and fun. I also like to find ways to save money while at it. Using my AAA membership benefits is one way to do that.

In order to get your AAA discount you do need to order the tickets online here. The discount is a flat rate discount of $7.99 per ticket. Adult regular admission is $13, Seniors $11, and Children $9. There is a processing fee which as of this writing was $.99 per ticket. That pretty much washes out the savings on a child's ticket, but it might just be easier to have all the tickets preordered, that's a decision for each person to make. Just to be clear though this is not a show your card discount, this is a preorder discount where you have to get your tickets through AAA to get the discount.

For those of you who aren't AAA members or would prefer not to preorder your tickets, The Butterfly Place lists the other discounts they offer here.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Fairy Tale Mix Ups: Red Riding Hood Meets the Three Bears

Charlotte Guillain explores the idea of what happens when encounters with the Big Bad Wolf causes Goldilocks and Little Red Riding Hood not to follow their traditional story paths in her book Red Riding Hood Meets the Three Bears (Fairy Tale Mix-ups). This book ponders what might have happened if Red Riding Hood arrived at the Three Bears house mistaking it for her grandmother's house. Being a regular guest in someone else's home will she perhaps react differently to the bear's home than Goldilocks?

It is a bit disturbing that the wolf decides to head out after Goldilocks instead of Red Riding Hood and we are left wondering what happens to Goldilocks. Goldilocks is pretty tough, she destroyed the bear's home and walked away clean. So perhaps the wolf will wish he'd stuck with the original plan and gone after Red Riding Hood. If she ends up at Grandmas will Grandma be able to teach Goldilocks proper manners and behavior for visiting strangers?

This is a fairly simple story, but it actually can start some interesting conversations like the one above about what happened to Goldilocks. The author doesn't tell us, but it is a way to get students thinking about what the author doesn't tell us. The author doesn't tell us why Red Riding Hood behaves so differently than Goldilocks but it doesn't stop us from discussing why they acted so differently. Do you think there will be problems between the Three Bears and the Big Bad Wold in the future now that the Bear Family and Red Riding Hood have become friends?

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Thrifty Guide to the American Revolution

What can be better than a book that makes children and adults laugh and provides accurate historical information? I stumbled across the Thrifty Guide to History series and decided to preview The Thrifty Guide to the American Revolution (The Thrifty Guides) as it fit a theme of books I've been searching for this past month.

The premise of the series is that in 2164 Time Corps is a vacation travel company that allows travelers to enjoy historic vacations without distorting the timeline because they come behind you to clean up. The reason we know about the Thrifty Guides is a time traveler carelessly lost several volumes and a New York publishing house decided to publish them without the permission of Time Corps. Now you too can discover the amazing Time Travel packages put together for you by Time Corps.

The Book has ten chapters with an Introduction on the basics of time travel. The chapters are titled the Boston Tea Party, The Battles of Lexington and Concord, The Siege of Boston, The Declaration of Independence, The Battle Of Brooklyn, The Crisis, Payback Time, The Battle of Cowpens, and Victory.

The book has helpful hints for surviving your trip and another feature for people to have lunch with and I liked the variety in that section. While some were major historical figures there were a variety of lesser known people introduced that generally get ignored in most books. There is also a section of historical pranks which I know will engage some and not others. The book clearly states all historical inaccuracies are cleared up by the Time Patrol. Don't skip the footnotes, these are not your typical dry entries but many are humorous commentaries from the Time Patrol.

There is something about the pace and descriptions that keep even the dryer material moving. I've always found Henry Knox's journey to be a fascinating one, but it the material written for kids can be dry and dull. This book manages to keep the pace moving while demonstrating what an amazing job Knox with a rather challenging job.

The writer never forgets the reader is on a vacation and reminds one of the dangers one will be facing as the next event begins. At the beginning of the section on Bunker Hill the writer gives a pep talk to the traveler on prepping for the battle as if one is going to be present to live through it.

I like history series that are fun, but they have to have historical value. Getting the facts right matters because many kids will read and remember more from the fun things they read than from any textbook on the subject. Along with being a fun read this is a good general introduction to the American Revolution. It isn't going to give your child everything, but because it engages, they will likely remember more than they may with other more traditional books on the topic.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Home School Days at Sturbridge Village

Well I clearly came late to this party, but it still seemed worth posting about since if I missed it others might not have heard either. I try to pass these events along to family that homeschool and I post them so others can enjoy as well.

Old Sturbridge Village has announced their 4 Home School Days for 2018 and I've already missed the first one. However, I will list it as it will remind me to look for next year.

Thursday, April 12, 2018
Wednesday, June 27, 2018
Thursday, September 6, 2018
Thursday, October 11, 2018

While a great resource a day out with the family can be a bit pricey so going on a day dedicated to homeschooling families provides the chance to meet other homeschoolers and it comes at a steep discount.

Children ages 4-17 $10
Homeschooling parents $15 ratio of one adult to one child between the ages of 5-17
Hands on Workshops $5-15 per student

As one can imagine these are popular programs and it is highly suggested if you want a workshop to preregister as they sell out quickly. The registration opens one month in advance of the date.

For more information check out their website here.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

My Life in the Plymouth Colony

I've long been a fan of books that don't just attempt to teach history, but try to engage kids with the people, time, place, and events happening. There is also something unique about a book that doesn't take the most obvious part of the subject but moves slightly forward or backward to give you a view of what was life like before or after the big event that is more often chosen as a topic for a children's book.

My Life in the Plymouth Colony (My Place in History) is a historical fiction picture book written in a diary format that tracks the life of an eight year old girl in 1633, thirteen years after the colony was settled. As I said previously I like the time jump because it gives the reader an idea of what life was like after the original settlers arrived. This wasn't the time often chronicled in First Thanksgiving stories. This is about what happened when the colony started to grow.

There are nine diary entries, each covering a different topic a New Year, Anne's First Word (her introduction), schooling, farm life, gardening, the Sabbath, a feast, harvest, and breeching. Each entry is about two pages with lots of pictures. There is a glossary in the back that defines the bold vocabulary words that might be new to children. Each section also has a Note from History that gives a little background information on the topic being discussed.

This is clearly not designed to teach the history of the Plymouth colony, but it is a great book to make the experience more real for students by providing practical life details of what life was like for a child living in one of America's earlier colonies. It can be hard to find age appropriate material for younger children that still has something for upper elementary students. I think the information provided here is unique enough that it could cross those boundaries. With support the language and pictures are appropriate for younger students. The material provided addresses gaps not often found in books written for upper elementary students about life for children.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

It's Not Jack and the Beanstalk

What would happen if a fairy tale character revolted and refused to follow the traditional version of his tale? Josh Funk explores that idea in his picture book It's Not Jack and the Beanstalk when Jack and the narrator experience a battle for control of Jack's story.

I'm a huge fan of alternate fairy tales, but they have to be well written. I recently passed on reviewing a nursery rhyme alternate tale that I didn't feel lived up to a quality retelling of the story. This version is not only fun to read, but it also starts the conversation of why fairy tale characters don't question their paths more often. In this story it takes a while for Jack to get control of his own journey. At the beginning while he questions the narrorator's control, he still is forced into following the story. However, when Jack and the giant meet the two begin to question the path they are on and in talking to each other they find a new path, much to the frustration of the narrator who tries desperately to regain control of the story.

This was one of the better alternate fairy tale books I've read in a while and I think it would be a great way to encourage kids to discuss and even write their own alternate versions of fairy tales. Why couldn't more fairy tale characters revolt against their narrators and find new happier paths.

Monday, April 16, 2018

RobinHood's Faire

The RobinHood Faire is coming to the Bolton Fair Grounds in Lancaster, MA from May 12-28 10:30-6. You can visit their website here.

Tickets are $10 for ages 7-15, $15 for ages 16+, children 6 and under get in for free. Check out the website for discounts for seniors and military here. You can also find passes which provide discounts for multiple visits.

This is one of the more affordable Ren Fairs in the area and one of the only ones offered in the Spring in this area.

Friday, April 13, 2018

At the Battle of Yorktown: An Interactive Battlefield Adventure

At the Battle of Yorktown: An Interactive Battlefield Adventure (You Choose: American Battles) is another very strong entry in the You Choose series, this one written by Eric Braun.

I came across this title while searching historical fiction books on a required reading list. This was not on the list, but as so often happens, it popped up under the also bought suggestions and I realized it was a new title in a series I previously reviewed and loved.

One of my challenges is to find books that present accurate but engaging history for children. The two require balance. You can write a very detailed factual account of history, but if kids find it dull and boring, it isn't terribly helpful in engaging them in wanting to learn more about history. The other side is a wonderful story that sadly misleads kids about events because the research is sloppy. This series is both engaging and factual.

The reader is presented with 3 characters to choose from to follow the events that unfold during the Battle of Yorktown, a French soldier, an African American slave hoping for freedom, and a woman following her husband's enlistment in the Continental Army.

I like the attempt to add diversity to the choices because it provides a more rounded look at the war. Too often we don't look beyond the big names we've all come to know from history to the actual people who lived during the time period.

I am on the fence about the French soldier, though. I understand the desire to help students realize the Americans had the assistance of French military during the war and to include that perspective in the story. However, to do that, they had to leave out what I thought was an important perspective and that was the British soldier who was to suffer the ultimate humiliation when the Battle of Yorktown was lost and they had to surrender to the Continental Army. I think that weighting the option of including the French soldier or getting the perspective of the losing side through a British soldier I would have chosen the British soldier.

All three stories were compelling. A reminder to teachers and parents, this is a story about war and not every path leads to a happy ending. There are deaths depending on the choices one makes, even when those choices seem compassionate. As always I suggest previewing a book before presenting it to a child to read and be prepared to handle the reactions to those outcomes.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

After the Fall How Humpty Got Back Up Again

I am always looking for alternate fairy tales and nursery rhymes. When I saw Dan Santat's After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again) I decided to borrow it from the library to see if it was worth adding to my list of alternate titles.

This is actually a different kind of tale than the ones I usually write about for my alternate tale reviews. Other than changing the premise that the King didn't have the resources to put Humpty back together again, the story doesn't try to change the basic premise that Humpty liked to climb and fell. It instead is aimed at teaching children how to cope with a painful, scary accident that can lead to someone not wanting to do something again.

In this story after his fall Humpty doesn't want to resume wall climbling even though prior to his fall it was a great passion. He simply can't face the thought of the damage he could do to himself again. The author doesn't push Humpty up the ladder again, but instead leads Humpty there by acknowledging that his fears are logical and giving him some time to heal by exploring a new interest. Mind you this is a picture book so it isn't a long healing process, but it does give the reader enough time to understand that Humpty isn't giving up climbing forever, but he needed time to deal with his near death experience and to realize accidents do happen, it is just a part of life. There is no way to live an accident free life. Through his new hobby, Humpty comes to terms with the reality that nothing he does will be safe from accidents and he resumes his climbing.

This book packed a powerful message and it would be good to share with children because at some point most kids deal with fear, frustration, accidents, and failures. This book isn't the solution, but it is a way of talking about how hard it is to want to try again and how with time it is possible to overcome fears and challenges and to try again.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Friends of the Marlborough Public Library Book Sale April 28

The Friends of the Marlborough Public Library are holding their Spring Book and Bake Sale on Saturday, April 28th. The sale is open from 9-3 PM. The library is located on 35 West Main Street in Marlborough, MA in the Bigelow Auditorium, located in the lower library.

This sale is especially good for parents and teachers as the children's section is sorted into sections making the books easier to locate. The sections include board books, hard cover picture books, soft cover picture books, leveled readers, holiday themed books, early chapter books, and then chapter books by genre. There is also a section for non-fiction materials. Not something you find at most library book sales. While books do get jumbled during the sale, every effort is made to keep the sections together as long as books remain in those categories to help parents, teachers, and children make selections. This is the largest selection of non-library discard donations we've had in several years.

Young Adults have their own table with sections for science fiction/fantasy, manga, mystery, fiction, historical fiction & classics, and non-fiction.

Adults have a wide selection of books in fiction and nonfiction, hard cover and paper and includes a section for large print.

Another reason to visit, the prices are the best in the area. Children's soft cover books are $.25 Hardcover books $.50. Young Adult and Adult books are $.50 for paper and $1.00 for hard cover.

For best selection, arrive early. If you miss this sale, please stop by the ongoing sale located on a cart inside the Children's Library. While it won't be available during the sale on Saturday, it should resume the week after the sale ends. The prices are the same and new items are added weekly. Adults can find an ongoing sale on a bookshelf inside the doors at the entrance of the upstairs library. That will be available during the book sale.