Monthly Archives

June 2016

    book reviews, children's books

    The Spinfords (A Book Review)

    The Spinfords by AnnMarie Martin, illustrated by Stevie Hannigan
    Format: Paperback
    Pages: 44
    Publisher: Black Bed Sheet Books

    Synopsis (from Amazon)
    What’s the one thing in the world that scares kids the most? Being different.

    But not Salvatore. You see, Salvatore’s webs are different. Much to his family’s disappointment. Because this family of circus-performing spiders has built their act off tradition. Webs are circles, period.

    But not Salvatore’s. And over his father’s squashed body is he going to let him perform with them. It would ruin all they worked for since Grandpa Sebastian Spinford started their show back in 1934. But Salvatore knows better. He knows the crowd is craving something new and fresh. And with his grandfather’s help, he’s going to prove it.

    Salvatore’s story will give children of all ages the confidence to be themselves, no matter what.


    Confession: I am not a fan of spiders, but the Spinford family makes it hard for me to not like spiders.  They’re a family of web-weaving acrobatic-artist spiders who live underneath a backyard deck in the suburbs of New Jersey.  When the book starts, proud parents Simon and Sylvia are shown welcoming their newest addition to their family into the world: little baby Salvatore.

    It doesn’t take long for the Spinfords to realize that Salvatore is very smart, highly creative and he develops amazing webs!  However, when the day arrives for Salvatore’s big performance test to see if he is ready to join the family act he doesn’t pass the test. Although Salvatore can create beautiful webs in record time, they are not the typical webs that everyone is used to seeing.

    In the end, young Salvatore stands his ground and believes in himself no matter what others may say.  He decides that all he needs to do is show everyone how spectacular his webs really are and he did!

    Although I found this book to be a bit text heavy and wordy for my kids, I love the overall messages of diversity, self-acceptance, confidence and realizing it doesn’t take approval from a majority to realize your own greatness.  We ended up reading this book over the course of two separate read aloud sessions since I saw the kids getting a bit antsy about halfway through.

    The font of this book is written in all capital white colored letters and the pages are a dark blue color.  Because of this, it was sometimes a bit hard on my eyes while reading.  However, I didn’t feel like it took away from the story and what the author was trying to get across to little readers.  The illustrations are cute and whimsical and there are positive affirmations of hope that appear in the webs throughout the book.  Some of the messages include: “Never Give Up” and “The World Will Always Need Bugs Like You.”

    Being different from their peers is one of the most difficult things for children to cope with.  I think this is especially true as they get older.  Nothing is worse than standing out and not being considered to be “normal” among your friends.  What a wonderful world it would be if we truly appreciated evolution and an expanding landscape of diverse minds and creativity.  Reading books like The Spinfords gives me hope that maybe one day we’ll finally get there, but likely not in the foreseeable future during my lifetime.

    Overall, we enjoyed reading about the adorable Spinford family.  A great book for teaching children about staying true to themselves and celebrating who they are.

    Connect with AnnMarie Martin!
    Website | 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: What makes you different?  In what ways do you stand out from the crowd?  Feel free to share in the comments.

    book reviews, children's books

    Brick by Brick (A Book Review)

    Brick by Brick: A Snippet of the Life of Booker T. Washington by Louie T. McClain II
    Format: Paperback
    Pages: 30
    Publisher: Melanin Origins LLC
    Grade Level: Kindergarten – 1

    Synopsis (from Amazon)
    A children’s book snippet about the life, accomplishments, and achievements of the great Booker T. Washington – an inspirational African-American innovator, leader, scholar, and philanthropist.

    Brick by Brick provides a small glimpse inside the life of Booker T. Washington, an American educator, author, orator, and advisor to presidents of the United States. Between 1890 and 1915, Washington was a dominant leader in the Black community.

    The book starts off with a very positive message for little readers: “brick by brick we can get the job done by laying one brick at a time.”  A very young Booker T. Washington is seen in a cartoon-like drawing laying down some brick foundation for a building he and his friends built with their very own hands.  That building was initially known as the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute.  It’s currently known as Tuskegee University located in Tuskegee, Alabama.  The institute grew immensely and focused on training African-Americans in agricultural pursuits.

    I think small children will be able to relate to this book and grasp the overall messages of faith, hope, love, hard work, grit, teamwork and determination very easily.  Throughout the book, Booker T. Washington is seen being a leader among his friends, a speaker in front of large crowds, and he’s even shown speaking to the President of the United States!  What an honor it must have been for him to be invited by President Theodore Roosevelt to the White House in 1901.

    We’ve read this book a couple of times and it keeps my children engaged.  The text isn’t too wordy and the illustrations are bright and colorful.  My kids especially like to point out the fireworks and the kids shown having fun on the playground.  I also like the fact that there are a diverse group of kids shown in the book all working together to achieve a common goal.  However, since this book is based on a historical figure, I think the clothes the kids are wearing and the hairstyles are too modern for the time frame of the 18th and 19th century.  Other than that, I think this book does a great job informing little readers about an important figure in Black history in a way that is relatable and fun.  An empowering, inspirational and educational read for the little ones!

    Coming soon by Melanin Origins in Fall 2016 – Power in My Pen: Ida B. Wells!

    Connect with Melanin Origins!
    Website | FacebookTwitter


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

    Your Turn:  How do you teach your children about hard work and team work?  Feel free to share in the comments.

    children's literacy, read aloud, subscription boxes

    The Story Box: New Packages, Lower Prices & A Discount!

    Great news!  In an effort to bring you more value and more affordable options, our friends over at The Story Box are celebrating their new book packages and they’ve lowered their prices a bit.  Hooray!

    Receiving a surprise package in the mail is always a thrill for me!  My daughter is at the age where she thinks getting mail is so fun too now that she recognizes here name in print.  It makes her feel special to open up a box with her name on it. That’s one of the many reasons why I think a kids’ monthly subscription box is a great gift idea.

    Owned by speech-language pathologist (Holly) and her husband (Clint), the Story Box is a subscription box that is intended to be an inexpensive way for parents to grow their children’s personal library of books.   When you subscribe to The Story Box, your family will receive a monthly box that is curated by a nationally certified speech-language pathologist.

    Each book is carefully selected to be fun and appealing to your little readers.  The Story Box family also takes great care in selecting books that will facilitate your child’s communication development and emergent literacy skills.  Just to name a few attributes, they love books that are colorful, have great illustrations, good vocabulary, good story line, rhyming, alliteration, and so much more!

    We received the Family Package box in the mail which is perfect for our family!  Our box contained 1 picture book, 1 board book, a tip card and a parent guide.  The tip card contained a challenge to make reading a part of your child’s routine every single day.  This challenge isn’t hard for us since we’ve been doing this daily since both of my kids were born.  I think the parent guide is so helpful and full of excellent information including language concepts and example extension activities to go along with the picture book we received.

    FullSizeRender (4)

    Ok, sounds great.  Let’s hear about the new pricing structure and packages!

    Board Book Package (Ages 0 to 2 1/2 years old)
    Includes: 2 board books per month and the monthly tip card
    Month-to-Month Plan: $14.99 per month
    3 Month Prepay: $44.97
    6 Month Prepay: $89.94

    Picture Books Package (Ages 2 1/2 to 6 years old)
    Includes: 2 picture books and a parent guide
    Month-to-Month Plan: $19.99 per month
    3 Month Prepay: $59.97
    6 Month Prepay: $119.94

    Family Package (Appropriate for families with children in both ages ranges)
    Includes: 1 picture book, 1 board book, tip card and parent guide
    Month-to-Month Plan: $17.99 per month
    3 Month Prepay: $53.97
    6 Month Prepay: $107.94

    Shipping is always FREE for all plans!

    The Discount: Here Wee Read readers get $5.00 off the first order! Just use coupon code SPRING at checkout!

    Disclosure: I received this complimentary box for review purposes. I was not compensated in any way. All opinions are my own.

    Connect with The Story Box!
    Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

    Your turn: Have you tried this fantastic subscription service for your little readers yet? Feel free to share in the comments.

    adult books, book reviews, giveaways

    The Positivity Kit: A Book Giveaway!

    The Positivity Kit by Lisa Currie
    Format: Paperback
    Pages: 192
    Publisher: TarcherPerigee/Penguin Random House
    Available for Sale: June 7, 2016 | Pre-Order Link

    Synopsis (from Amazon)
    Brimming with engaging prompts that focus on the good things in life, this interactive book is guaranteed to cheer up even the grumpiest person on the rainiest day.

    Prompts include:

    • Draw your dream home.
    • Make a grateful list.
    • Compile the perfect playlist.
    • Draw yourself a tattoo (on paper!).
    • List 30 great ways to spend a free hour.
    • Write a thank you note to a stranger.
    • A smell that reminds you of someone you love
    • Something you never congratulated yourself on, but should have

    On the heels of Me, You, Us and The Scribble Diary, The Positivity Kit is illustrator Lisa Currie’s most personal, and most upbeat, book yet.


    Receiving this book was so timely for me since I’m currently on a mini break from posting on Instagram and decreasing my time spent on other social media platforms as well.  Sometimes I find it gets to be too much “noise” and distractions from my everyday life.  Right now, I’m practicing being more still, intentional and living in the present moment.

    Think about it, how often do you actually pause and take notice of how beautiful the things you’re surrounded by everyday are?  Yesterday I took notice of how beautiful of a day it was. Not a single cloud in the sky.  I watched as the trees on the other side of the road slowly swayed back and forth in a cool Northeast breeze. I opened up the windows and took the moment of beauty in, completely understanding how often I take for granted amazing weather and a moment of stillness.  I was so happy and content in that moment.  After that I immediately opened The Positivity Kit and completed the first exercise which is to write yourself a message in the sky.  Something that would make you smile if you saw it.

    Each one of the exercises in this book literally fills me with happiness instantly – honestly!  Studies have shown, just by doing something like creating anything almost instantly makes us feel better.  How cool is that?  This book is packed with jump-starter prompts and reminders of reasons the world is – even on the grayest days – a beautiful place.

    I haven’t completed this entire book yet, but so far my favorite prompts are: filling a page with all the good things I’ve done in my life so far (big and little things), listing all of the places in the world I hope to visit one day, and creating my own ultimate happy song playlist.  I’m seriously having a blast filling this book up with all of my happy thoughts.  Can you see how doing these things will instantly make you feel good?  I’ve never taken the time to actually write any of these things down so to have them all in one book instead of random vision boards or scrap pieces of paper is perfect!

    Thanks to the publisher TarcherPerigee/Penguin Random House, I’m hosting a giveaway for one (1) copy of The Positivity Kit!  Enter the giveaway below.  Good luck!

    The Positivity Kit by Lisa Currie

    holiday gift guide series

    Top 5 Dad’s Day Deals!

    For many, Father’s Day is when we express gratitude to fathers and present them with gifts. While your dad might have a few things in mind, he most likely won’t be the first to come out and say what he really wants. So for the majority of us, it’s going to require some digging.

    Every dad is different, of course, and maybe yours will just be happy with a nice heartfelt card, while others might be expecting a new bbq, a drill set or some other type of new tool. The good news is that most fathers really just want to spend time with their family.

    As Father’s Day approaches, it seems to be the right time to highlight some of my favorite things: deals and dads! In my case they go hand-in-hand because my father was always looking to save, always looking for a great deal.

    In that spirit I’ve put together my Top 5 Deals for Dad’s Day ranging from photography to fitness, so Father’s Day (and beyond) is centered around growing and making meaningful memories together. Plus, all 5 are deeply discounted for a real Dad’s Day DEAL.

    Photography Lessons


    This incredible set is perfect for that dad with the creative streak, whether he’s futzed around with a camera or always wish he did! Photography is such a big part of our world, and what better a way to learn about it and create art and memories than with a unique course done together. This set covers:

    • History of Photography
    • Exposure
    • Camera Settings
    • Lighting
    • Composition

    It includes lesson plans, badges, and games. I think this is such a unique, meaningful and long lasting gift – and a serious deal at less than a quarter of the original price!

    Original Price: $119 Deal: $24.95 (80% OFF)


    Fitness: Language of Fitness & Nutrition

    Father’s Day runs in tandem with summer – I love the idea of dad and the kids spending some time together outside being active! Some of my favorite memories are playing catch with my dad. This workbook is an affordable way to kick-start activity terms and tips.


    It includes vocabulary, flash cards, color pages, and handwriting practice all centered around fitness and nutrition. Idea: instead of playing the basketball game “horse,” dad and kids can use a new fitness vocabulary word!

    Original Price: $9.99 Deal: $3.99 (60% OFF)


    Building Together: Tegu Blocks 40 Piece Set

    Classic: building things with dad. These magnetic wooden blocks are a staple that come in interesting shapes and fun colors. They’re portable and can create whatever dad and kids think up!

    tegu dark

    Idea: set aside a few just for dad for his work station. If it’s the office he’ll think of the family – and have something creative for his desk. The kids can even create new shapes for him each week!

    Original Price: $110 Deal: $82 (25% OFF)


    Language Arts: 1-Year Subscription to PetraLingua Online Language Course

    Learning a language can be challenging as an adult, but those who learn together succeed! I love the idea of choosing a language that’s meaningful to dad and creating family time around this course while learning together.


    You can choose German, French, Spanish, Chinese and Russian for a full year’s worth of learning together. Idea: make a meal from the country of origin on Father’s Day!

    Original Price: $53.99 Deal: $23.99 (54% OFF)


    Finance: US Money Bundle

    What would this round up be without a deal on finance?! I don’t know about you but I began learning the value of money when I got my hard earned allowance from dad.


    This set has oodles of fun activities that help kids learn our monetary system and pave the way for meaningful conversations and responsible habits. It’s not always easy, but these graphics and games make it fun!

    Original Price: $25 Deal: $7.99 (70% OFF)



    To all fathers, know your role as a father. Always be there for your children. They need you to help sharpen their lives and look to a good future.  Wishing you all a wonderful Father’s Day with all those who play that role in your life!

    family fun, summer camp at home, summer reading

    7 Weeks of Summer Camp at Home for Kids!

    The official start of summer is just a few weeks away…yikes!  Is the year already almost halfway over?  Many children look forward to an exciting summer camp they get to attend, but what if camp isn’t an option for your family? Perhaps money is tight and it’s not in your budget, your kids are too young, or they are not ready for longer periods away from home.  One solution is to design a summer camp experience at home, which can be affordable, fun, and easier than it sounds to pull off.

    I’ve teamed up with 13 other amazing bloggers to bring you a 7-week series of “Summer Camp at Home”.  For the next 7 weeks we’ll be bringing you two different themes per week filled with different books to read, yummy snacks to eat/prepare and activities to do with your kids and tweens.

    7 WEEKS OF

    Let us be your virtual “camp counselors” and follow some of the summer activities, snack idesa or field trips that we suggest. Depending on the ages of your kids, some activities or recipes may require a little prep or materials, but they’re perfect for summer in that they’re 1) fun, 2) relatively easy, and 3) some are designed to get the kids outside so you can enjoy a little peace and quiet.

    Although I think it’s important to have downtime and let kids be bored at times, having a list of suggested activities to do with your kids can be your secret weapon against boredom and a summer spent in front of a screen.  This summer camp series is designed to help you manage your time as a family as well as help the kids keep learning through the summer while having fun doing it.

    Want to join us?  It’s simple!
    For 7 weeks, we are going to develop fine motor skills, learn STEM basics, improve language and reading skills and sharpen social and leadership skills through imaginative play. Or if you look at it from the kids’ perspective, we are going to play and have so much fun this summer!  Best of all, we’ll be making memories that will last a lifetime.

    Starting Monday May 30th, the first two blog posts will be rolled out with two new themes being released every week thereafter for the next 6 weeks.  Our goal is to post every Monday although due to holidays or circumstances outwith our control, the post may be delayed a day or two.  Fear not, once the post goes live it will be updated in the links below.  At the end of the series, you may also have access to all 7 weeks of activities in one place.  We’re still working on how this will be rolled out so please bear with us.  If we’re able to get it done we’ll figure out a way to make it available to those who want it.

    Below are the 14 themes for this year’s 7 Week Summer Camp at Home Series. Please click on each link for all the ideas as each blog post goes live.  Be sure to check back each week to see the new ideas the next set of “camp counselors” suggest for the upcoming week ahead.

    Week 1: Monday 5/30 – Self-Love ThemeOcean Theme 
    Week 2: Monday 6/6 –  Saving Money ThemeGardening/Going Green Theme
    Week 3: Monday 6/13 – Black History ThemeMusic Theme
    Week 6: Monday 7/4 – Dinosaur ThemeCooking Theme
    Week 7: Monday 7/11 – Astronomy Theme & Around the World Theme

    We hope you enjoy this series as much as we enjoy putting it together!  Happy Camping!

    Your turn: How will you and your kids be spending your summer?  Feel free to share in the comments.