Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Book Review :: Conrad and the Cowgirl Next Door By Denette Fretz, illustrated by Gene Barretta

Conrad and the Cowgirl Next Door is the second book in The Next Door Series by Denette Fretz. 

The first book in the series was Pirates on the Farm. You can read my review of that book here. Although I didn't really care much for Pirates on the Farm, my kids really enjoyed it, so I figured it was worth giving this book a shot. 

Personally, I didn't care for this book much more than I did Pirates on the Farm. The story of Conrad and the Cowgirl Next Door is similar to Pirates on the Farm in that the story is not complete without the illustrations to back it up. (Meaning there are ideas you won't get from just the text - you need to illustrations to get the complete idea.)

Conrad and the Cowgirl Next Door is a story about a boy Conrad and his adventures in "cowboy training" on his Uncle Clint's ranch. Most of the adventures involve a first aid kit and taunting from the cowgirl next door (Imogene Louise Lathrop). 

I felt that what should have been the main idea of the book (loving your enemies) took a backseat to the antics. Even the idea of loving your enemies was worded in a way that I thought could easily be mistaken as unloving: "Forgive your enemies. It messes up their heads."

When I finished reading Conrad and the Cowgirl Next Door to my 5 year old son, I asked him a few questions. Here is how the conversation went:

Q: What did you think?
A: Good.
Q: Did you learn anything?
A: Yeah. You need a doctor kit. And a horse.
Q: Did you learn anything about how cowboys should act?
A: Nice.
Q: Were they nice in the story?
A: No, actually they were kinda mean. 

I feel like that conversation sums it up pretty well. Unfortunately, I don't think I would recommend this book unless you use it purely as a jumping off point for conversations with your kids.
FTC Declaration: The publisher has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book or advanced reading copy through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. This does not change the fact that I will give my honest opinion in my reviews.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Book Review :: Draw-A-Saurus: Everything You Need to Know to Draw Your Favorite Dinosaurs by James Silvani

Draw-A-Saurus by James Silvani is not a typical "how to draw" book. The text and illustrations are funny - and educational, too! The basic ideas that are introduced in Draw-A-Saurus will be helpful for drawing a variety of creatures.  

Each chapter goes into detail on how to draw one specific type of dinosaur (T-rex, apatosaurus, triceratops, ankylosaurus, stegosaurus, etc.) but then also shows (and explains) a variety of other dinosaurs that share similar characteristics. Draw-A-Saurus includes instructions for drawing dinosaurs who made their homes on land, in the air, and in the seas. 
The drawing instruction in Draw-A-Saurus does not just stop at a basic "copy this", but gives tips and tricks for how to draw dinosaurs from a variety of angles, in a variety of stances, and also includes instruction on finishing details (scales, feathers, etc.). There are also additional tips for "cartooning" your dinosaur or how to change a couple characteristics to create a baby dinosaur. The final chapter gives some quick instruction on how to create an environment for your dinosaur. 

Each step of the way, the text is educational - giving details on specific characteristics of the dinosaurs. (For those who may be curious, this book does reference evolution and "millions of years".)

In my opinion, this is a great resource for drawing - I know my kids (and I) will enjoy using it!
FTC Declaration: The publisher has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book or advanced reading copy through the Blogging for Books book review bloggers program. This does not change the fact that I will give my honest opinion in my reviews.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Book Review :: What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days by Holley Gerth

What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days is a 52-part devotional by author Holley Gerth. (On the back cover, this is recommended as a companion to Holley's book, You're Going to Be Okay, which I have not read.) 

Each entry in What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days is inspired by a portion from the Psalms. The verse(s) are followed up with a short story/analogy to help illustrate the point. Each of the 52 devotionals closes out with the start of a prayer (and lines for you to write in your words to finish it) and another lined section to write down the response that you feel is being given to you. As seems to be true with any devotional-style book, some entries may hit you more than others, depending on your stage/place in life. Even so, I feel like everyone can appreciate each devotional. 

What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days is a relatively compact book (6.1 x 4.3 x 1 inches), and it would be easy to toss in a purse to take with you if you are on-the-go. I feel like the compact size is great for travel, but personally I prefer to have a larger surface area if I am going to be writing in a book. It is just more comfortable to write on a larger surface, in my opinion. 

If you are looking for a devotional to help encourage you through the hard days (or even the easy ones), I'd suggest considering this What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days
FTC Declaration: The publisher has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book or advanced reading copy through a book review bloggers program. This does not change the fact that I will give my honest opinion in my reviews.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Book Review :: Riley Mae and the Sole Fire Safari by Jill Osborne

Riley Mae and the Sole Fire Safari is the third book in The Good News Shoes series (Faithgirlz!) by Jill Osborne. Riley Mae and the Swiftriver crew are back again - and this time they are headed off to Africa!

See my reviews for the first two books here:
As this is the third book in the series, I would recommend reading Riley Mae and the Rock Shocker Trek and Riley Mae and the Ready Eddy Rapids before reading Riley Mae and the Sole Fire Safari so that you are able to easily follow along with the plot, but even without doing so the author does provide some short explanations for many of the points that might be confusing to someone who had only started with this book.

I have been looking forward to reading Riley Mae and the Sole Fire Safari since I finished the first two books a few months ago - but I had to try and hide it from my 10 year old daughter so she wouldn't read it before I could read and review it. :o)

Riley Mae and the Sole Fire Safari follows Riley Mae and the Swiftriver crew and their experiences in Africa. Riley Mae turns 13 in this book, and along with that is a little more talk about boys/relationships than I remember in the previous books, but it was not overwhelming. I appreciated that in this book, Riley Mae is looking toward her calling in life - in my opinion it could be a great spark to get readers thinking about what God may call them to do with their life. There are also topics in this book that get readers to think about what is affecting others in the world (such as education, safety, and clean water issues) - I was glad to see the author include these subjects. Even though the topics in Riley Mae and the Sole Fire Safari are a bit deeper than the previous books, there is no lack of fun and adventure. 

I've enjoyed the previous Riley Mae books and Riley Mae and the Sole Fire Safari is no different. My 10 year old daughter enjoys them all, too. I recommend them all.

And here is what my daughter had to say: "Do you know when the next one comes out? I hope there is going to be another one! I really liked it. I think I like Riley Mae and the Sole Fire Safari better than the other books. I think it's really cool that Riley Mae gets to go to Africa. I like how it kind of teaches you about Africa. I think other kids will like to read it, too." 
FTC Declaration: The publisher has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book or advanced reading copy through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. This does not change the fact that I will give my honest opinion in my reviews.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Let's Talk About Homeschooling :: Part 3 - Changing It Up (& Homeschooling on a Budget)

(If you've missed my first two posts about homeschooling, you can find them here.)
Today's post is all about "changing it up". One of the great things about homeschooling is that (in general) - you have a lot of options available for covering the basics. It doesn't all have to be textbooks and workbooks and "school at home".

Here are some of my tips:

Want to do something different from (boring) workbooks?
  • Check out Life of Fred for math.
  • Also, look into Wrap Ups, Math Dice, flash cards, and other non-written forms of math.
  • Teach fractions in the kitchen. (Bonus: You can make something yummy while you learn.)
  • Add in the Liberty's Kids and Carmen Sandiego DVDs or a game like Great States for a little variety in history/social studies/geography. 
  • Use The Bible Experience to enhance your history (and to give your voice a little break from reading aloud). 
Should the kids sit at desks all day?

No way. (Unless they really love it.)
My kids sit on the couch, on the floor, on their bed, in a tree, on a swing, and all over the place while they do their school work.

Need to do your homeschooling on-the-cheap?
  • Get a "Comprehensive Curriculum" book - they include a variety of subjects.
  • Check out Khan Academy - it's a bunch of free online lessons for a variety of subjects and there are practice questions and quizzes to go with the videos. 
  • For basic math drills you can print off worksheets from mathfactcafe.com - it's free and you can customize the worksheets for what you want your child(ren) to be working on.
  • For teaching phonics/reading skills - try http://www.teachyourmonstertoread.com/.
  • Use your local library (or libraries). They are there for you to use and have a lot of great resources.
  • If you have an electronic reading device (Nook, Kindle, etc.), many libraries allow you to check out books on your devices. Talk to your local library to see if this is an option for you.

That's all I've got for today, but please - share your favorite tips and tricks for changing it up in your homeschooling. 
I'd love to hear them!

Stay tuned for future blog posts about homeschooling
I am even planning to address that one question that may be burning in your mind:
Will my kids be weird if I homeschool them?
Disclaimer: Any information and links provided are my personal preference or suggestions. In no way is any of this meant to be taken as (or in place of) legal advice. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Thanks Card

I've got to admit: a lot of times when I create a card - it just ends up in a box...piled on top all of the other cards I've made...and it stays there until I have too many and then I give them away to someone who will actually use them. 
Sad, but true. 
I know I have heard of many other cardmakers who are the same - make a card just to do something creative, but then it just sits there. 

Sometimes, though - I will make a card with a specific purpose in mind...and actually give it to the intended recipient(s)!

This was such a card:
To create this card I started by putting strips of floral masking tape on a piece of cardstock, then I die cut it for my sentiment. I just love that Thanks die! I am going to get a lot of use out of that one.
And of course I love anything to do with mason jars - I don't know why they are so cute...but they are. I die cut the base of the jar from a vellum that has some sparkles in it, then die cut the lid from a silvery cardstock.
I then finished it off by tying the top of the jar with twine and adhering everything to the card base. It's a card that came together fairly quickly and I am pleased with the result.

Thanks for stopping by today!
Cardstock: Discount Cardstock (Brilliant White 130#, Green);
Vellum: Discount Cardstock (Sparkle Vellum);
Tape: Scotch (Floral Masking Tape);
Dies: Serendipity Stamps (Thanks Die); Papertrey Ink (Pint Jar Die, Jar & Lid Die);
Twine: The Twinery (Solid Pink Sorbet);
Tools: Fiskars (Trimmer, Scissors); Scor-Pal (Scoring Board);

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Book Review :: Goodnight, Ark by Laura Sassi, illustrated by Jane Chapman

Goodnight, Ark is a children's picture book, written in rhyme. This book by Laura Sassi is a fun, fictional story about the animals on board Noah's ark.
Goodnight, Ark is both fun and funny, and I can see this becoming one of our favorites. A few pages are written with the anticipation on one page and the completed rhyme on the next page, giving a good chance for your young ones to join in with their guesses. 

Although the title may lead you to believe otherwise, Goodnight, Ark is not a Goodnight Moon-style book (where you are saying "goodnight" to something on each page). Rather, Goodnight, Ark is a story about the animals on board the ark who are getting scared as they try to go to sleep with the storm raging. I appreciated that the story includes animals which are not typically mentioned, such as boars and quail. (Just incase it needs to be stated explicitly - this is a fictional story, not a biblical account.)

The illustrations in Goodnight, Ark are fabulous. Illustrator Jane Chapman has done a wonderful job of creating images that are attractive and fun, giving the reader a lot to look at. (I watched my son's eyes darting around the pages, looking at all the detail.) The colors are a touch more muted than you might find in many other children's books, which I appreciate. Each illustration covers a full two-page spread.

Overall, I recommend Goodnight, Ark and think it would be a great addition to any family's bookshelf. 
FTC Declaration: The publisher has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book or advanced reading copy. This does not change the fact that I will give my honest opinion in my reviews.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Book Review :: Jonah and the Great Big Fish by Rhonda Gowler Greene, illustrated by Margaret Spengler

Jonah and the Great Big Fish is a children's picture book by Rhonda Gowler Greene, written in rhyme. The story is taken from the book of Jonah.

Although the story is taken from the biblical account of Jonah, it does not follow the story all the way through, but rather ends at the point where Jonah obeys God's command to go to Nineveh. I think the ending as is keeps the focus on obedience to God, but obviously in your discussions with your children you will want to expand into the whole story and discuss the repentant hearts of the Ninevites.
There were a few things I really appreciated about this book and a couple small things that I am unsure of. I appreciated the overall focus of obedience in this book. I was also glad to see the book refer to a big fish rather than a whale.

When I first read the book, I was unsure what I thought of the wording where God tells Jonah to tell the Ninevites that "they need to repent". From my very un-expert opinion of the biblical account, it seems that God does not ask for repentance, but rather tells Jonah to tell the Ninevites that Ninevah will be overturned. Also, I wish the wording was a little different where Jonah is praying from inside the great fish - it almost sounds like Jonah is praying for three days before God even hears his prayers. That to me is one thing that I will be sure to discuss further with my children when reading this book - God always hears our prayers and knows them even before we pray them, but it may be awhile before we can "hear" His response.

The illustrations by Margaret Spengler are great - it appears to be airbrushed, which gives it a very "soft" feel. The colors are beautiful and the illustrations fill each full two-page spread.

Overall, this is a cute book with a great message to read with your young ones.
FTC Declaration: The publisher has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book or advanced reading copy. This does not change the fact that I will give my honest opinion in my reviews.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Twinery/Pretty Little Studio {Blog Hop}

The Introduction:
If you are hopping along with us today: You should have come here from The Twinery's blog. If you did, you are in the right place! Welcome!
If you aren't already a follower, I'd love to have you follow my blog!
If you are on Facebook, please "like" Ink Blots by TRD.

If you are one of my regular readers: Thanks for coming back! I love having you! Please join along in the hop - you can start at the Pretty Little Studio blog.

The Hop Order:

The Prizes:
The Twinery is giving away a fabulous Striped Twine Sampler ($65 retail value):
Pretty Little Studio is giving away a fantastic prize as well – check out The Twinery's blog and the Pretty Little Studio blog to find out how you can enter to win one of these great prizes. 

The Projects:
When I saw Pretty Little Studio's Baby Jack collection, I couldn't wait to dive right in! I love the colors, patterns, and adorable images. I had hoped to use this collection to create a variety of projects for my precious baby nephew, Roscoe, but unfortunately that won't be happening. I do plan to make a remembrance book with this collection and some of my favorite pictures of him, though.

For today's project, I created a card and gift tag set:
There are a lot of options of The Twinery's twine that I could have used with this collection - it pairs well with some of the bolder colors as well as many of the softer colors. I surrounded myself with a variety of coordinating colors: Caribbean, Marigold, Mandarin, Seaweed, Cantaloupe, and Flax - but I eventually decided to pair it with The Twinery's Buttercream twine. (The Twinery's Buttercream twine is one of my all-time most used colors. I love it!)

For the gift tag, I paired The Twinery's Buttercream twine with a variety of Pretty Little Studio products from the Baby Jack collection: vellum, bingo tags, patterned paper, and stickers.
For the card, I decided to try my hand at a shaker card. The shaker area is backed with vellum and has some confetti mix behind the plastic window. (I used some of the Pretty Little Studio packaging as the plastic for the window.)
I added some patterned paper (again from the Baby Jack collection) and The Twinery's Buttercream twine to the front of the card - then finished it all off with that cute die cut. 

Thanks for stopping by today!

The Next Stop:
Lisa Spiegel

Twine: The Twinery (Buttercream); 
Patterned Paper: Pretty Little Studio (Baby Jack Collection - Baby Chase, Baby Henry);
Vellum: Pretty Little Studio (Baby Jack Collection - Baby Aiden);
Stickers: Pretty Little Studio (Baby Jack Collection - Baby Ryan Wood Stars);
Sequins/Confetti: Pretty Little Studio (Baby Jack Collection - Baby Sam Mint Confetti Mix);
Embellishments: Pretty Little Studio (Baby Jack Collection - Baby Owen Bingo Tags);
Die Cuts: Pretty Little Studio (Baby Jack Collection - Baby Joshua);
Cardstock: Discount Cardstock (Brilliant White 110#); 
Tools: Fiskars (Trimmer, Scissors); Scor-Pal (Scoring Board);

Monday, August 11, 2014

Book Review :: My Happy Pumpkin (God's Love Shining Through Me) by Crystal Bowman, illustrated by Claudine Gevry

My Happy Pumpkin by Crystal Bowman is a children's board book, written in rhyme.  The board book is shaped (cut out around the pumpkins and flower on the cover). 
The story is sweet - following a father and son as they plant, pick, carve, and light a pumpkin. The author emphasizes obedience as a way to show our love to God and as a way to show God's love and light shining through us (which ties in with the story of the lit up pumpkin). 

Because some may be curious - I thought I should mention that nowhere in the book does it specifically mention Halloween or depict any scary/Halloween images. It does, however, show a carved (jack-o'-lantern style) pumpkin.

Also, I thought it was worth mentioning that the book does mention God washing away the sins of the child (spoken by the child). I know there are differing ideas on sins and children, so I thought it would be best to point that out for those who might be curious.

The illustrations are cute and colorful and each image covers a two-page spread. The cute mouse shown on the cover pops up on almost every page - I like repetitive images like that in children's books so that I can prompt the child I am reading with to find the image on each page. 

All in all, I think My Happy Pumpkin is a cute book with an overall good message. Although I don't think it will be one of our top favorites, I will still enjoy reading this with little ones. 
FTC Declaration: The publisher has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book or advanced reading copy through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. This does not change the fact that I will give my honest opinion in my reviews.