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April 2016

    connecticut, family fun, national library week, passport to CT libraries

    Passport to Connecticut Libraries Week 2

    Happy National Library Week!  Last week Mother Nature wasn’t on our side.  We experienced sun, wind, rain, and snow all in one week.  I still can’t believe we had snow in April!  Despite the weather, we made it to 10 libraries around the state one of which ended up being an unexpected new addition from our original list.

    This week the weather has been much more favorable which has been great since we didn’t get to go to any of the outdoor parks or destinations I had lined up for last week.  That’s ok though because summer is right around the corner so there will be plenty of opportunities to explore those parks and many more in the coming months.

    Passport to CT LibrariesWeek 2Here are the libraries we plan to visit during the second week of the Passport to Connecticut Libraries Program:

    • Meriden Public Library (Meriden)
    • Berlin-Peck Memorial Library (Berlin)
    • Windsor Public Library (Windsor)
    • Wallingford Public Library (Wallingford)

    Since my daughter is on spring break from school this week we have other activities planned so we’ll just be visiting the individual libraries without going to any kid-friendly places afterwards.  I’ll be sure to have some additional kid-friendly places to visit around the state for weeks 3 and 4.  We have a special outing planned for the last week in April that I’m really looking forward to sharing with you.  Stay tuned!

    Enjoy a few highlights from our travels last week below.

    passporttoctlibrariesweek1

    Your turn: If you live in Connecticut, have you also been participating in this wonderful program?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    book reviews, children's books, read aloud

    Miles & Mia A to Z: A Book Review

    Miles & Mia A to Z by Michaela Alexander
    Pages: 40
    Recommended for children ages: birth to 7 years old
    miles&miaatoz
    Synopsis
    Miles & Mia A to Z is an educational, picture book that teaches children different letters of the alphabet in a fun way. Featuring rhyming text and colorful original illustrations, Miles & Mia A to Z is sure to delight children of all ages as well as parents.

    Reflection
    I first learned about this book from my favorite social media platform, Instagram.  I literally could not wait for it to be released so I could read it with my kids and share it with my readers!  Now that I finally received my copy in the mail I can tell you all about it.

    miles & Mia A to Z

    First off, let me acknowledge the author and illustrator of this book for penning an alphabet book that features Black children.  Although I read a variety of different books with my kids, I get the most enjoyment from seeing their eyes light up when they see characters in books that they can relate to who look like them.

    When I showed this book to the kids for the first time they both looked at the book cover and said, “That’s me!”  That truly made my heart sing and actually tear up a little bit because I’m so happy they have the opportunity to see diverse characters being represented in children’s books.  That’s something I never had growing up as a child.

    Miles & Mia A to Z is such a a fun and adorable rhyming book!  Not only does it teach children the letters of the alphabet, but it also incorporates additional learning and some great vocabulary words for little readers like: guava, hummingbird, sushi, and zephyrosaurus.  The illustrations are so lively and colorful and show Miles & Mia experiencing a variety of things from sailing on a pirate ship to traveling to the planet Neptune in outer space.

    I also appreciate the fact that this book was shipped in such high quality and durable packaging.  The customer service and attention to detail are impeccable!  We received a personal signed copy addressed to both of my children and some cute little Miles & Mia stickers that my kids adore!  I love it when companies take the initiative to go the extra mile for their customers and add their own personal touch.

    I think this book is a definite must have alphabet book for your child’s home library, especially for little readers from diverse backgrounds.  To me, there is something so magical about a child seeing themselves being represented in books which in turns helps them to establish a lifelong love of reading.  Pick this one up for your little bookworms!  Order your copy here!

    About Miles & Mia
    milesandmiaatoz
    Born out of a love of stories, young Miles & Mia are the inspiration for the Miles & Mia collective of tales, based on their adventures of growing up in London, UK.

    Meet Miles, a smart six year-old that loves to play football and being outdoors. Miles says that running around at the football match means he is helping himself to grow healthy and strong. When he is not kicking a ball about, Miles loves geography and learning about the history of the world. Every country is his favorite, he says, and he hopes he can visit many places and write about them when he grows up.

    Miles’ partner-in-adventure is his little sister, Mia. Four years old and full of energy, which is definitely needed as it helps keep her on her, dancing toes at ballet club. Mia also loves to sing and draw and made sure that she wore her favorite black and white stripy tights in every Miles & Mia adventure as they make her dance and run faster, she says!

    Together, this close sibling duo along with their Pomeranian dog Major, spend their time giggling and taking on the world as they make new friends, discover and learn new things and occasionally get into a little hot water.

    Keeping this vibrant tribe ticking along like clockwork is mommy Michaela. Michaela makes sure Miles & Mia mind their ps and qs, but most importantly that they look after each other and are kind to people. Every day is an adventure for young Miles & Mia and they would love you to join them on their journey.

    Connect with Miles & Mia!
    Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

    Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

    Your turn: Are you looking forward to reading this book with your little ones?  If you’ve already read, did your kids enjoy it?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    children's books, read aloud

    Book of the Week: Lionheart by Richard Collingridge

    Lionheart by Richard Collingridge
    lionheart
    Age Range: 3 – 5 Years Old
    32 Pages

    This book has instantly turned me into a new fan of Richard Collingridge’s work.  I featured this book in my ultimate list of 2016 picture books and I knew back then just from looking at the cover and reading the synopsis it was going to be an amazing book – I was right!

    I read this book myself first which certainly helped to make my reading aloud more entertaining and suspenseful for the kids (at least I think it did).

    lionheartrichardcollingridge

     

    Lionheart introduces us to a little boy named Richard who hears something in his bedroom before laying down to go to sleep, but what is it? Is it a monster? Richard goes on a quest outside to find out walking through thick grass and trees until he reaches a magical jungle where there are animals all around. He keeps running and running until he encounters Lionheart – his Lionheart.  (Lionheart is Richard’s stuffed animal toy.)

    With Lionheart, Richard is not afraid. In fact, he forgets all about the monster. When Lionheart , Richard and all the animals finally see the monster face-to-face, Richard looks at Lionheart and instantly he knows what to do…he roars!

    This book is so well done! From the text, to the illustrations, to the heart pounding suspense. And the overall message of conquering your fears is terrific!  I love how Lionheart teaches Richard to be brave which in turn helps him to stop being afraid of monsters.

    A few days after reading this book I heard the kids playing “monster” together.  My son was the monster chasing my daughter and then she turned around and roared and said, “I’m not afraid of you monster!”

    I think this is the perfect book if your little readers are afraid of monsters, being in the dark, or if you want to teach them bravery and confidence.

    You can watch the trailer for the book here.

    Your turn: Have you read this book with your little readers yet?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    family fun

    11 Kids Movies We Can’t Wait to See in 2016 (Plus Bonus Movies for Adults)!

    As much as I like to read, I also love going to the movie theater to watch movies!  Especially when the movie first debuts or if I’m lucky enough to attend a pre-screening prior to the movie being released to the general public.  I don’t get a chance to watch much TV at home so going to the movies and being able to actually sit and watch an entire movie from start to finish is a real treat for me…(it’s the little things).

    The kids and I have seen our fair share of kids movies over the past couple of years from Zootopia to The Good Dinosaur.  And while some parents of two and three year olds may not be so willing to bring their kids to the movies, I would take my kids to a new movie every other weekend or at the very least once a month if there were enough supply of kids movies to meet our demand.  Surprisingly, my kids actually do sit and watch the movies, but only when we’re in the theater – at home is a totally different story.  Go figure!

    11 Kids Movies We Can't Wait to See in 2016!

    There are some great kids and family movies coming out this year that we’re really looking forward to seeing.  Here’s the top 11 we’re most excited about:

    Title: The Jungle Book
    Release Date: April 15th, 2016
    Rating: PG
    thejunglebookmovie
    Directed by Jon Favreau (“Iron Man”), based on Rudyard Kipling’s timeless stories and inspired by Disney’s classic animated film, “The Jungle Book” is an all-new live-action epic adventure about Mowgli (newcomer Neel Sethi), a man-cub who’s been raised by a family of wolves. But Mowgli finds he is no longer welcome in the jungle when fearsome tiger Shere Khan (voice of Idris Elba), who bears the scars of Man, promises to eliminate what he sees as a threat. Urged to abandon the only home he’s ever known, Mowgli embarks on a captivating journey of self-discovery, guided by panther-turned-stern mentor Bagheera (voice of Ben Kingsley), and the free-spirited bear Baloo (voice of Bill Murray).

    Title: Ratchet & Clank
    Release Date: April 29th, 2016
    Rating: PG
    ratchetandclank

    Ratchet and Clank tells the story of two unlikely heroes as they struggle to stop a vile alien named Chairman Drek from destroying every planet in the Solana Galaxy. When the two stumble upon a dangerous weapon capable of destroying entire planets, they must join forces with a team of colorful heroes called The Galactic Rangers in order to save the galaxy. Along the way they’ll learn about heroism, friendship, and the importance of discovering one’s own identity.

    Title: Finding Dory
    Release Date: June 17th, 2016
    Rating: G
    findingdorymovie

    “Finding Dory” takes place about a year after the first film, and features returning favorites Marlin, Nemo and the Tank Gang, among others. Set in part along the California coastline, the story also welcomes a host of new characters, including a few who will prove to be a very important part of Dory’s life.

    Title: Ice Age: Collision Course
    Release Date: July 22nd, 2016
    Ice-Age-Collision-Course-Teaser-Quad-600x452

    Scrat’s epic pursuit of the elusive acorn catapults him into the universe where he accidentally sets off a series of cosmic events that transform and threaten the Ice Age World. To save themselves, Sid, Manny, Diego, and the rest of the herd must leave their home and embark on a quest full of comedy and adventure, traveling to exotic new lands and encountering a host of colorful new characters.

    Title: The BFG
    Release Date: July 1st, 2016
    thebfg

    Have you read this book yet?  I love it!

    The exciting tale of a young London girl and the mysterious Giant who introduces her to the wonders and perils of Giant Country. Based on the beloved novel by Roald Dahl, “The BFG” (Big Friendly Giant) was published in 1982 and has been enchanting readers of all ages ever since. Dahl’s books, which also include “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “James and the Giant Peach,” “Matilda” and “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” are currently available in 58 languages and have sold over 200 million copies worldwide.

    Title: The Secret Life of Pets
    Release Date: July 8th, 2016
    Rating: G
    thesecretlifeofpets

    For one bustling Manhattan apartment building, the real day starts after the folks on two legs leave for work and school. That’s when the pets of every stripe, fur, and feather begin their own nine-to-five routine: hanging out with each other, trading humiliating stories about their owners or auditioning adorable looks to get better snacks. The buildings top dog, Max (voiced by Louis C.K.) a quick witted terrier rescue who’s convinced he sits at the center of his owner’s universe, finds his pampered life rocked when she brings home Duke (Eric Stonestreet), a sloppy, massive mess of a mongrel with zero interpersonal skills. When this reluctant canine due find themselves out on the mean streets pf New York, they have to set aside their differences and unite against a fluffy-yet cunning bunny named Snowball (Kevin Hart), who’s building an army of ex-pets abandoned by their owners and out to turn the tables on humanity…all before dinner time.

    Title: Storks
    Release Date: September 23rd, 2016
    storks

    Storks deliver babies…or at least they used to. Now they deliver packages for global internet giant Cornerstore.com. Junior, the company’s top delivery stork, is about to be promoted when he accidentally activates the Baby Making Machine, producing an adorable and wholly unauthorized baby girl. Desperate to deliver this bundle of trouble before the boss gets wise, Junior and his friend Tulip, the only human on Stork Mountain, race to make their first-ever baby drop – in a wild and revealing journey that could make more than one family whole and restore the storks’ true mission in the world.

    Title: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
    Release Date: September 30th, 2016
    miss-peregrines-home-movie-poster1
    I haven’t read this book yet, but the movie looks like it will be fantastic!

    From director Tim Burton and based upon the best-selling novel, comes an unforgettable, thrilling and haunting tale. Sixteen-year-old Jacob follows clues that take him to a mysterious island where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores the abandoned bedrooms and hallways, he discovers that its former occupants were far more than peculiar; they possessed incredible powers. And they may still be alive.

    Title: Trolls
    Release Date: November 4th, 2016
    Trolls

    The film will be a grand scale musical comedy centering around how the Trolls came into their vibrant and colorful hair.

    Title: Moana
    Release Date: November 23rd, 2016
    moanamovie

    Kudos to Disney for creating a new multicultural Polynesian princess!

    In the ancient South Pacific world of Oceania, Moana, a born navigator, sets sail in search of a fabled island. During her incredible journey, she teams up with her hero, the legendary demi-god Maui, to traverse the open ocean on an action-packed voyage, encountering enormous sea creatures, breathtaking underworlds and ancient folklore.

    Title: Sing
    Release Date: December 21st, 2016
    singmovie

    This movie looks like it will be hilarious!

    Illumination has captivated audiences all over the world with the beloved hits Despicable Me, Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, Despicable Me 2 and Minions, now the second-highest-grossing animated movie in history. Following the release of The Secret Life of Pets in summer 2016, Illumination presents Sing at the holidays. Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, Scarlett Johansson, John C. Reilly, Taron Egerton and Tori Kelly star in a musical comedy about finding the shining star that lives inside all of us.

    Bonus Movies for Adults (Based on Best-Selling Novels)

    Title: Me Before You
    Release Date: June 3, 2016
    mebeforeyoumovie

    I cannot wait to see this movie!  I absolutely LOVED the book!

    Young and quirky Louisa “Lou” Clark (Emilia Clarke) moves from one job to the next to help her family make ends meet. Her cheerful attitude is put to the test when she becomes a caregiver for Will Traynor (Sam Claflin), a wealthy young banker left paralyzed from an accident two years earlier. Will’s cynical outlook starts to change when Louisa shows him that life is worth living. As their bond deepens, their lives and hearts change in ways neither one could have imagined.

    Title: The Light Between Oceans
    Release Date: September 2nd, 2016
    Rating: PG-13
    the-light-between-oceans

    This book has been on my TBR list forever!  Maybe I’ll finally get around to reading it before the movie comes out.

    After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.

    Tom, who keeps meticulous records and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel insists the baby is a “gift from God,” and against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.

    Title: The Girl on the Train
    Release Date: October 7th, 2016
    thegirlonthetrainmovie

    Confession: I started reading this book last year, but for some reason it didn’t hold my attention.  I know lots of other people raved about it.  I’ll just wait for the movie to come out to see what the hype around this book is all about.

    Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson, Justin Theroux, Haley Bennett, Edgar Ramirez and Allison Janney star in DreamWorks Pictures’ THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN, from director Tate Taylor (The Help, Get on Up) and producer Marc Platt (Bridge of Spies, Into the Woods). In the thriller, Rachel (Blunt), who is devastated by her recent divorce, spends her daily commute fantasizing about the seemingly perfect couple who live in a house that her train passes every day, until one morning she sees something shocking happen there and becomes entangled in the mystery that unfolds. Based on Paula Hawkins’ bestselling novel, The Girl on the Train is adapted for the screen by Erin Cressida Wilson and Taylor. The film’s executive producers are Jared LeBoff and Celia Costas, and it will be released by Universal Pictures.

    Your turn: What movies are you excited to see on the big screen in the theater this year?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    book reviews, children's books

    The Genius of Leonardo da Vinci: A Book Review

    The Genius of Leonardo da Vinci by Guido Visconti, illustrated by Bimba Landmann
    Age Range: 5 to 11 years
    thegeniusofleonardodavinci

    Synopsis
    Meet Leonardo da Vinci: artist, engineer, pacifist and inventor. Told through the eyes of da Vinci’s young apprentice, this stunning book will fascinate youngsters — and inspire everyone! Features original words and drawings from da Vinci’s notebooks to spark curiosity about STEAM and offer a unique glimpse into this boundary-busting thinker.

    Reflection
    Since this book was much longer than I expected it to be (it’s 40 pages, but the text per page is a bit lengthy), I chose not to read it aloud with the kids because I didn’t think it would hold their attention too long.  However, I read this book on my own and found it to be both interesting and enjoyable.

    The book is a biography of Leonardo’s life told through the eyes of his mischievous 10 year-old assistant, Giacomo.   I was surprised to learn that Leonard was not only an artist, but he was also an engineer, map maker, scientist, inventor, and musician.  No wonder why he’s often referred to as being a genius.  Although he is very wise, I like the fact that he didn’t appear to be too cocky or a “know-it-all”, just a regular down to earth guy who just happened to be very intelligent and talented.

    Little Giacomo is quite mischievous in the book often annoying Leonardo.  I think kids will be able to relate to his character.  Leonardo refers to him as being “a liar, a thief and a greedy brute who eats as much as two boys and causes as much trouble as four.”

    The book also includes a series of Leonardo’s wonderful quotes, original sketches and a glimpse of the his later years, including his paintings of the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper.  My favorite quote is: “A person’s life is just a moment in infinity.”

    Although I didn’t read this book aloud with my children, I definitely plan to when they are a bit older.  This book is filled with gorgeous illustrations, original works of art and awesome vocabulary building words for little readers.  I’d recommend this book for older children ages 6 -12.  It’s perfect for helping students research Leonardo’s life for a biography homework assignment.

    Your turn: Have you read this book yet with your little readers?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    adult books, subscription boxes

    My Lit Box Subscription Box Plus a Giveaway!

    Calling all book lovers…there’s a new subscription box in town: My Lit Box!  I had the pleasure of connecting with Sanura Williams, owner and founder of My Lit Box via Instagram a few days ago.  She recently launched this subscription box last week and I’m so excited to share it with you!

    I’ve featured a few different subscription boxes before on my blog, but this is the first one geared towards adults.  Read on to learn more.

    mylitbox

    Q: How did you come up with the idea for this subscription box?

    A: I had one of those Oprah “ah-ha” moments where I realized that life I was living wasn’t the life I SHOULD have been living. I knew this was largely attributed to the fact that I wasn’t passionate about what I was doing for a living.  My Lit Box is the result of my brainstorming on how to make my passion a bigger part of my life. I love to read but unfortunately, I found that I wasn’t doing it as often as I would like. Then I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if there was no guess work?  What if I could count on a new book being delivered to me monthly?  From this, My Lit Box was born!

    Q: What can book lovers expect to be included inside of each box?

    A:  Each month’s box will include a newly released novel by a writer of color as well as 1-2 quality bookish items that relate to that month’s theme. When it comes to the contents of each month’s box, you may open it and find journals, tote bags, candles, bookmarks, keepsakes, etc. The possibilities are endless!

    Q: How are the items selected?

    A: I’m constantly scouring the Internet for upcoming releases so I usually start with the novel. Once that is in place, and I’ve drawn a theme from the novel, then I begin to select products.  It’s extremely important to me that I not just throw a bunch of stuff in a box. I want my subscribers to feel as if they are receiving a box that has been carefully curated.

    Q: Why writers of color?

    A: I noticed that when I read lists compiling the greatest writers of our time, be it past or present, very few of the writers (1) looked like me or any other minority and (2) they weren’t any of my favorite writers. This is just my effort to shine light on an often overlooked segment of talented writers and put their works into the hands of book lovers worldwide.

    Q: Ok, this all sounds great, but how much is it?

    A: My Lit Box offers two month-to-month subscription options:

    • Full Plan ($25/month) – With this option you will receive one newly released novel as well as 1-2 quality bookish items
    • Book Only Plan ($17/month) – With this option you will receive one newly released novel monthly

    Q: Is there a discount?

    A: Here Wee Read subscribers can receive 10% off their first order by using promo code HEREWEEREAD at checkout!  Order your box today!

    Connect with My Lit Box!

    WebsiteInstagram | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest |Tumblr

    The Giveaway!
    I’m so excited to be hosting the very FIRST giveaway for this subscription box!  One (1) lucky winner will win a FREE subscription box courtesy of My Lit Box.  The box will ship on May 5, 2016.  Good luck!

    My LitBox Subscription Box Giveaway

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    children's books, giveaways

    Beverly Cleary’s 100th Birthday Book Giveaway!

    On April 12th, beloved author Beverly Cleary is turning 100 years old!  Best known for her stories about Ramona Quimby, her sister Beezus, and their friend Henry, Cleary has written more than 40 books.  Her stories have been captivating readers of all ages for more 60 years. From the Mouse and the Motorcycle to Socks the Cat, her characters and the tales they inhabit are still going strong all these decades later.

    Inspiring kids to love reading, especially struggling readers like herself as a child, has been a lifelong mission for Cleary who grew up on a farm in Yamhill, Oregon—a town so small it had no library.

    Today, people all across the world celebrate Cleary on her birthday.  In fact, Harper Collins Publishing recognizes April 12th—as “DROP EVERYTHING AND READ” (D.E.A.R.) Day.  Check out the official website here.

    To celebrate Beverly Cleary’s 100th birthday, I’ve collaborated with three other awesome bloggers to give you a chance to win our “Beverly Cleary 100th Birthday Prize Pack.”

    beverlycleary100thbirthday

    Before I mention what the prize pack contains, let me tell you who all of the generous bloggers are that helped sponsor this fantastic giveaway.

    Lizzie from Photosynthesis206
    Stephanie from Pin Up Girl Beauty
    Tiffany from unRehearsed

    Each of us have pitched in and spent our own money to purchase all of the books for this giveaway.  Why?  Because we all adore Beverly Cleary, but most importantly we wanted to give something back to you – yes, YOU!

    Ok, so what’s included in the prize pack?

    Here’s what we have up for grabs for all of our fellow Beverly Clearly loving readers:

    Note:  Due to high shipping costs, this giveaway is only open to US Residents age 18 and older. (Sorry, international friends!)

    Sounds wonderful!  My kids and I love Beverly Cleary, how can I enter?
    Please use the Rafflecopter entry form to enter the giveaway.  One (1) winner will be chosen on April 13, 2016.  The winner will have 48 hours to respond once notified.  If the winner does not respond within 48 hours an alternate winner will be chosen.  All books within this prize pack will be shipped individually by each of our sponsors.  Good luck!

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

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