Monthly Archives

March 2018

    adult books, giveaways

    How to Coach Girls: Q&A + Swag Pack Giveaway!

    Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book as part of the How to Coach Girls social media book tour sponsored by Audrey Press.

    How to Coach Girls
    by Mia Wenjen and Alison Foley

    Did you know that 70% of all kids quit organized sports by the age of 13, with girls quitting at 6x the rate of boys?

    Alison Foley, Boston College’s Women’s Head Soccer Coach, and Mia Wenjen, parenting blogger at PragmaticMom to help coaches, both parent volunteer and professional coaches crack the code of how to keep girls in sports. HOW TO COACH GIRLS focuses on the key elements to keep girls coming back next season covering topics like Coaching Your Own Daughter to Pitfalls of Choosing Captains to Developing Team Chemistry. This is a hands-on manual to help coaches keep girls in sports!

    Purchase a copy of HOW TO COACH GIRLS on Barnes & Noble or Amazon

    About the Authors

    Mia Wenjen

    Mia is also a blogger at, a mash-up covering education, parenting, and multicultural children’s books. Her blog receives over one million views a year. She is a co-founder of Multicultural Children’s Book Day, January 27th, a non-profit which celebrates diversity in children’s literature. In just three days, the event generated over 3.6 billion social media share impressions!

    A mother of two daughters and a son who play sports year round, she experienced first-hand how girls react differently than boys as athletes. It is from this, and her husband’s experience coaching their kids as a volunteer parent soccer and golf coach, that this book was conceived. 

    Alison Foley

    Alison Foley is the Boston College Women’s Soccer Head Coach. Her team’s success has led them to the NCAA Final Four and Final Eight during 13 consecutive play-off appearances. In her 20+ year career, she has coached many national team level players.

    Alison started playing soccer at a young age, receiving ODP regional and national invitations. She played for Keene State College where she was an All-American, and earned a degree in psychology, focusing on sports psychology of female athletes. She still enjoys playing the game and can be found on the pitch both as a coach and a player.

    HOW TO COACH GIRLS by Mia Wenjen and Alison Foley Q&A

    1) Why did you decide to write this book?

    Mia: My oldest daughter had an amazing volleyball coach who was so positive that even when they lost every game in a tournament, he emphasized their improvements. The players left feeling like champions. I was walking next to him for a team dinner and he told me that early in his coaching career, he was that coach that yelled more at the most promising player — a completely different coach than he is today. It took him a long time of trial and error to learn how to effectively coach girls.

    Alison, my neighbor and friend, was always my go to for any sports related drama for my girls. I wanted to write this book with her because I think that coaching girls is a learned skill, not an innate one. We are hoping that by sharing this knowledge, ultimately it will help keep girls in sports.

    Alison: I have had the opportunity to coach girls for the last 20 plus years and have seen things that consistently work really well with girls and have fumbled through my own mistakes of things that don’t work. I think there are a lot of capable coaches out there but they “miss” simple cues or don’t implement a small change that will have their players happier, developing faster as athletes and people and be a better teammate. I’ve learned a lot of this by trial and plenty of error. If I can help coaches with a couple of “secrets” to short cuts to team success I will feel this book is a success.

    2) The stat you quote is alarming: 70% of kids quit organized sports by age 13, with girls quitting six times the rate of boys. Why are girls quitting at such high rates?

    Alison: I think there are a lot of options out there for kids these days and you have to create environments that they are excited to go to. You have to blend pride, sense of community, and success all in this formula to retain your players. Understanding how our young athletes think and what makes them click is shared in our book and hopefully keeps girls excited and engaged in sport.

    Mia: I’ve noticed with my girls, especially when they are trying out a new sport, that it can be one seemingly small thing that will either get them excited to keep going OR make them want to stop.

    3) What can be done to retain girls in sports?

    Mia: What we learned is that research shows that the number one reason why kids play sports is to have fun. But for girls, “fun” means being valued and respected. Interestingly, kids do not care about winning! That’s not a factor as to why kids stay in sports.

    4) What are some of the ideas in your book to keep girls in sports?

    Alison: a coach needs to create a safe and nurturing environment for the team. This starts with building a relationship with each player that extends beyond just an athlete, but as a whole person. It’s taking the time to learn about their family, their extra-curricular interests, and other aspects of their life.

    Mia: Something as simple as picking Team Captains can be a way to build team chemistry or destroy it. A rotation schedule that gives each player a chance to lead also teaches the value of being a good follower.

    5) Let them eat cake at games or practices?! Doesn’t that go against healthy eating as food as fuel for sports performance?

    Alison: One of my assistants at Boston College, Mike LaVigne asks the day before our player’s birthday what type of cake they want for their birthday and then he brings it to the locker room the next day. To me, it’s not about the cake. It’s about the fuel of happiness. Our players feel so special that he remembers their birthday and they love to be celebrated by their teammates at the start or end of practice. Celebrating individual milestones (a great test grade, first communion, bat mitzvahs, first goal) all are great reasons to bring in a little sugar!!! It does volumes for your team spirit!

    Mia: My girls were in it for the cake! If they knew someone was bringing cake to celebrate a birthday at a game or practice, they’d be there even if they were deathly ill!

    6) Growth Mindset is the Big Idea in education these days. How do sports teach Growth Mindset?

    Alison: From a coaching perspective, Growth Mindset emphasizes development over winning. The focus is not about outcomes but on effort during practice.

    Mia: As a parent, you can teach your child self-advocacy through sports by letting her resolve issues directly with the coach such as playing time, starting lineup, or moving up a team.

    7) It sounds like building team chemistry is essential for a good experience. What are some ideas that every coach, volunteer or professional, can do?

    Mia: Something simple is counting off to form small groups versus letting girls choose their own groups. Usually girls cluster in friend groups on a team that are based on what school they go to. Counting off mixes them up, creating opportunities to make new bonds.

    Alison: It’s the coaches’ job to teach equal value of all players. Giving positive feedback to every player each practice signals that every player is “good.” Also recognizing behavior that is not skill based shows what coach values. For example, recognize the player that helped an injured player or lead the effort to clean up the field after practice. And recognize all the players that assisted in the build-up for the goal that was scored, not just the person who got the goal.

    8) I was struck by how much influence a coach has. You book talks about how coaches should focus on developing good people not just good players. Should we really be expecting this from coaches, especially parent volunteer coaches?

    Alison: As a coach, you are in a leadership role and how you act sends a message and influences your players. If you are a coach that gets sent off the field for arguing with a ref, that’s what your players will emulate. On the other hand, you have the organization in the form of a team, to help others. Helping kids develop qualities such as strong work ethic, confidence, leadership, compassion, and working through issues to reach goals are skills that players will have for life.

    Mia: We have a list of sports related non-profits on our website for teams looking for ways to give back. We will keep adding to that list if anyone has suggestions for organizations to add to the list. We’d also love to post on the community service work that teams are doing.

    9) Coaching your own daughter seems tricky but most parents who volunteering to coach are doing exactly that. What is one piece of advice to them?

    Alison: You are really wearing a “different hat” for a couple hours. Include them in your decision to coach BEFORE you decide and ask them what they may feel would make them feel uncomfortable and then if reasonable stay away from these requests. Don’t put more pressure on them. Use the same tone of voice you are with them as you do the other players. Don’t worry about complimenting your daughter if it’s something you would have recognized in another player on the team.

    Don’t evaluate their play on the way home or at all at home. Keep the environments separate.  Also refrain from them hearing any coaching “chat” with your assistants or other parents. It can be a beautiful bonding experience for you and your daughter!

    10) Any parent who has attended their child’s game has probably witnessed the “crazy sports parent” who screams at the ref, their own child, or the opposing team. What is your advice on how to deal with that?

    Mia: Don’t be that parent.

    Alison: Have a Parent Code of Conduct contract that parents sign before the season starts. Go over this in a parent meeting at the start of the season. If there are any infractions by parents, call a mandatory parent meeting after practice.

    Book Details

    ISBN/SKU: 9781936426034

    ISBN Complete: 978-1-936426-03-4

    Publication Date: 2/26/2018

    On Sale Date: 3/1/2018

    Purchase a copy of HOW TO COACH GIRLS on Barnes & Noble or Amazon


    Enter to win a How to Coach Girls swag pack including: One (1) copy of the book, branded hair ties and water bottle.  Good luck!

    How to Coach Girls Swag Pack Giveaway

    children's books, cover reveal, diverse books, middle grade

    Cover Reveal: Definitely Daphne by Tami Charles

    Definitely Daphne by Tami Charles, illustrated by Marcos Calo

    Publisher: Capstone
    Publication Date: October 1, 2018
    Age Range: 9-12 years old
    Pre-order link: Pre-order Here!

    I’m thrilled to be hosting the cover reveal for author Tami Charles’ forthcoming middle grade book on the book birthday of her debut novel Like VanessaLike Vanessa is an amazing book and has already received so much positive praise.  Be sure to check that one out if you’re looking for a great book to read.

    Synopsis for Definitely Daphne
    In front of her followers, Daphne is a hilarious, on-the-rise vlog star. But in reality, Daphne is the ever-skeptical Annabelle Louis, seventh-grade super geek and new kid at McManus Middle School. To cope with her mom’s upcoming military assignment in Afghanistan, Annabelle’s parents send her to a therapist. Dr. Varma suggests Annabelle try stepping out of her comfort zone, hoping it will give her the confidence to make friends, which she’ll definitely need once Mom is gone. Luckily there is one part of the assignment Annabelle DOES enjoy–her vlog, Daphne Doesn’t, in which she appears undercover and gives hilarious takes on activities she thinks are a waste of time. She is great at entertaining her online fans, yet her classmates don’t know she exists. Can Annabelle keep up the double life forever?

    Want to enter to win an advanced copy of Definitely Daphne?  Be sure to check our Instagram page later tonight for the giveaway to be posted!

    I don’t know about you, but I’m already intrigued and looking forward to reading this.  I need to know this story ends!

    book reviews, children's books

    Chineasy for Children by Shaolan (A Book Review)

    Disclaimer: We received a complimentary book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  As always, all opinions expressed are my own.

    Chineasy for Children by Shaolan

    Publisher: Thames and Hudson
    Pages: 80
    Format: Hardcover

    Do your children know more than one language? My kids are both learning Spanish at school and I take them to free language classes (Spanish and French) offered for kids at one of our local libraries.

    I’ve always wanted to learn Chinese/Mandarin so this book provides the perfect learning opportunity for both me and the kids! Chineasy for Children is so easy to grasp and quickly be able to understand 100 common words (characters) in Chinese.

    Introductory spreads explain how Chinese is written in pictograms―characters form building blocks for other words and sentences. Subsequent spreads feature lively scenes that help children to recognize over 100 Chinese characters. The book is organized by themes such as numbers, family, animals, nature and food, each section covering vocabulary within that topic. Stories about the development of characters and customs provide the perfect introduction to Chinese culture, while games and activities allow children to put into practice what they have learned. The book also features a picture library of characters for avid linguists to memorize as well as guidance on Mandarin pronunciation.

    I like using this book with the kids and on my own!  I think it’s a fantastic introduction to Chinese for kids and adults alike.  Apart from the lively illustrations and simplicity of the book, I appreciate reading about the history behind some of the characters.  For example, the character for the word father shows the shape of two axes crossed together.  This character represents a time when it was common for a man to chop wood with an axe to make a fire for his family.

    There are also thought provoking Chinese proverbs featured throughout and fun questions to think about.  The answer key is provided in the back of the book along with useful notes for parents and teachers.  Chineasy for Children is perfect for homeschooling or anyone who wants to learn to understand some of the most common Chinese characters.  Recommended for ages 5 and up.

    Your turn: Do your children know more than one language?  Have you or your children learned any Chinese characters?  Feel free to share in the comments.

    children's books, giveaways, holiday books

    The Berenstain Bears and the Easter Story + A Giveaway!

    Disclaimer: We partnered with Zonderkidz to bring you this fun Easter giveaway!  We received a copy of this book in exchange for our honest review.  As always all opinions expressed are my own.

    The Berenstain Bears and the Easter Story by Jan & Mike Berenstain

    About the Berenstain Bears
    Stan and Jan Berenstain published the first Berenstain Bears book in 1962, and the series has gone on to capture the hearts and minds of children across generations and across the globe. In the 50+ years since “The Big Honey Hunt,” the Bear family has grown from three to five members; the Berenstain Bears have been translated into over a dozen languages; and over 300 million books have been sold worldwide.

    About The Berenstain Bears and the Easter Story
    The Berenstain Bear cubs are candy-crazy this Easter! But Missus Ursula and some Sunday school students tell the cubs about the true meaning of Easter. Includes a sheet of colorful stickers!  Recommended for ages 4-7.


    As with all of the Berenstain Bears books there are lessons to be learned. In this book Brother and Sister Bear learn the true meaning of Easter, how Jesus rose from the tomb.  I love how the story was presented as part of an Easter play in Sunday School which made it easy for my children to understand.  They are familiar with watching plays at school and going to Sunday school at our church.

    I’m a total fan of the Berenstain Bears books. I read them when I was younger and I am now reading them to our children. I love the lessons taught in each one. I didn’t realize that Stan and Jan Berenstain had both passed away and their son is now writing the books. I’m glad that the tradition is being carried on and that Brother and Sister will still continue to share important life lessons with our children today. I also liked that on the back cover page there are activities and questions that help children apply the lesson learned.

    One (1) winner receives:

    • 1 Copy of The Berenstain Bears and the Easter Story
    • Egg dye
    • Candy
    • 1 Plush bunny

    Open to US addresses only.

    Prizing and samples provided by Zonderkidz.

    Link to Purchase

    Visit Amazon to purchase The Berenstain Bears and the Easter Story!

    Connect with The Berenstain Bears!
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    The Berenstain Bears and the Easter Story Giveaway

    a book and a craft, book reviews, children's books

    Island Pride: Teaching Children to Keep Their Culture Alive Through Books

    Disclaimer: I partnered with the publisher and joined the Penguin Young Readers blog tour in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

    by Junot Diaz, illustrated by Leo Espinosa

    Understanding who we are is maybe one of life’s biggest questions. Knowing where we came from is extremely important. It impacts who we are, how we think, what we believe, how we interact with others, what we think is possible for ourselves, whether we view the world as good or bad, what we strive for. Our history—our upbringing—impacts everything we think, believe and do.

    Keeping your culture (or native language) alive at home will reinforce in your children a sense of identity and will build their self-esteem. Children benefit from learning to value their roots and their culture. Children must be taught that we are all different and that differences must not only be accepted but also celebrated and that their culture (and language) is something they have to take pride in.

    One way of helping children appreciate diversity is to teach them about different cultures through books.  It’s important for children to learn each culture is unique but equally important and valuable. Respecting others begins by respecting ourselves and our heritage.

    When I first learned about Junot Diaz’s children’s book I was estatic!  Even though I wasn’t born on an island (I was born in the US), my mother was born in Jamaica and so was my husband and his family.  Therefore, we take pride in celebrating our Jamaican culture.

    In the book Islandborn, a little girl named Lola longs to remember the island where she was born for her school homework assignment. Thankfully, with the help of family and friends Lola’s imagination takes her on a journey back to the island.  As she talks to different people, Lola uses her sketchbook to write down simple phrases to help her remember.  Finally in the end, Lola goes home and draws pictures of everything she wrote down and creates a gorgeous book for her class assignment.

    The book never explicitly states which island Lola is from, but I assume it’s the Dominican Republic where Junot Diaz emigrated from based on a magnet placed on the refrigerator in one of the illustrations.  There is also mention of a “monster” that fell upon the island for thirty years which is likely a metaphor for Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo.

    Although I think the text is quite wordy for a picture book aimed at readers ages 5-8, I liked this book for several different reasons:

    • The thing that stood out the most to me is there are no White characters featured in this book.  You will also see a variety of diverse character names like: Mai, India, Camila, Matteo, Nu, Leticia, Dalia, etc.
    • Each page is frame worthy – the illustrations are bursting with bright, beautiful colors
    • The overall messages of understanding and appreciating where you came from and your family history rings loud and clear
    • It challenges children to use their imagination
    • By Lola understanding her past, it will no doubt give her future wisdom-filled direction

    After reading Islandborn, the kids completed a Jamaican word search puzzle, colored a family tree picture and we made Jamaican flags using construction paper.  A fun way to reflect on the story, our family history and explore the island of Jamaica.

    Reading this book may help remind little readers of who they are, what motivates them, and what their purpose is. It reminded me of that little kid I was—the one who dreamed big, feared little, and enjoyed the simple things in life. Islandborn reminds me of what really matters: family, building great friendships and relationships, and taking pride in your heritage and culture.

    Your turn: How do you teach your kids to keep their culture alive and take pride in where they came from?  Feel free to share in the comments.

    Junot Díaz was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New Jersey. He is the author of the critically acclaimed Drown; The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award; and This Is How You Lose Her, a New York Times bestseller and National Book Award finalist. A graduate of Rutgers University, Díaz is currently the fiction editor at Boston Review and the Rudge and Nancy Allen Professor of Writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
    Leo Espinosa is an award-winning illustrator and designer from Bogotá, Colombia, whose work has been featured in The New YorkerWiredEsquireThe New York TimesThe Atlantic, and more. Leo’s illustrations have been recognized by American Illustration, Communication Arts, Pictoplasma, 3×3, and the Society of Illustrators. Leo lives with his family in Salt Lake City, Utah.
    children's books, giveaways

    Jolene Adventures of a Junk Food Queen: A Book Giveaway!

    I consider myself to be a pretty healthy eater.  I pride myself on eating a well balanced diet most days and drinking the recommended 8 glasses of water per day.  However, I do have days when I like to eat “not so healthy” foods including junk food.

    As much as you want to hide from it, junk food will come and find you and your kids at some point in life. It’s inevitable.  Birthday parties. Vacations. Holidays. Grandparents.  Workplace celebrations.  Need I go on?

    Of course, when kids are really young, parents (or caregivers) control what they eat completely.  However, as kids get a little older, it becomes more important to teach them how to make good choices for themselves.   That’s the overall message of the book Jolene Adventures of a Junk Food Queen by Alexa Palmer & Catharine Kaufman.

    The book is based on the experiences of its authors: Alexa Palmer, a preschool teacher who noticed a need for a nutrition book tailored to the way she observes children absorb information, through fun and fantasy; and Catharine Kaufman, a nationally syndicated food columnist. Kids can relate to Jolene- she is a junk food junkie just like they might be. AND she is transformational in her eating habits. This similarity between the behaviors of the characters and the real-life tendencies of children is what attracts kids to the story.

    At the back of the book are healthy smoothie recipes for the kids to make at home and with their friends, just like the main character Jolene does in the book.

    Today, we’ve teamed up with the authors of this book to bring you this fun giveaway!  Enter below for your chance to win a copy of the book.  Good luck!

    Publisher: Kaufman/Palmer
    Pages: 60

    Jolene loves junk food. She loves it so much she wears red licorice in her hair–and pink taffy underwear! The Munch Bunch calls her “The Junk Food Queen.” Then, one night in her dreams, she meets a bunch of cool characters who take her on an incredible, edible journey into a world of juicy fruits, super salads and yummy smoothies.

    Jolene Adventures of a Junk Food Queen

    book reviews, children's books

    Tiny and the Big Dig by Sherri Duskey Rinker (A Book Review)

    Disclaimer: We received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher (Scholastic Press) in exchange for an honest review.  As always, all opinions expressed are my own.

    Tiny and the Big Dig by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by Matt Myers

    Publisher: Scholastic Press
    Age Range: 3-5
    Grade Level: Preschool – Kindergarten
    Format: Hardcover

    Tiny may be a small dog, but don’t let that fool you. He’s a pooch with power who knows what he wants. And he’s going for it. But oh, those pesky pessimists — they’re trying to rain on Tiny’s dig-parade!

    Thank goodness for one special boy who believes in Tiny, because in the end, this dog’s grit proves that he’s the little pup who could… dig up some giant surprises!

    Tiny and the Big Dig is a fun rhyming read aloud with colorful illustrations…perfect for story time! I love the overall message of believing in yourself and avoiding negative talk from the naysayers.

    Not only did little Tiny believe in himself, but so did his kid owner, a cute little unnamed Black boy. He cheered little Tiny on until the very end.  I love how Tiny proves all of the other animals wrong in the end and finds a “really big” bone!  I think this book is great for showing kids it doesn’t matter how small you are to accomplish goals or make a difference.  Kids may also enjoy the bright and cheerful cartoon-like illustrations which are very engaging.

    Overall, I think this is a fun read aloud for smaller readers.  I’d especially recommend this one for children who like excavation, digging, exploring, or dogs.

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