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  Santa Cruz Parent Santa Cruz, CA

December 11, 2013


The Joy of Making Things
Ask Nicole: Practical solutions to everyday parenting challenges

This Week
Mad Hatters holiday Tea Party
2013 Children's Literature Award Winners
Twelve Books of Christmas
Click to view our Business Directory
 

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After the joy and noise of Christmas morning, silence descends as each child curls up with a new book.  Good ideaPlan ahead.  Gift/Book! They are synonymous in my mind.  

We include unique book lists for children including Bookshop Santa Cruz's list of award winning books.  For even more interesting, extensive lists, go here

Children who grow up adventuring outdoors, making forts, discovering nature on their own, crafting, tinkering, experimenting with hands-on projects may become our future inventors.  Think about how we can foster the joy of making and incorporate this into the holidays.  Annie Murphy offers comments for thought!

Two special events are coming up.

(Photos General) Train3Boy.jpgThe Toy Train Show, run by some dedicated volunteers from The Over the Hill Gang, opens December 20 at MAH.  They welcome volunteers of all ages. Call Eric Child at 408.674.2573.

Private schools of the Central Coast of California are getting ready for their annual Independent School Fair on January 15th.  This is a great opportunity for parents to visit, chat, ask questions, compare and gather information.  I have been privileged to see first hand excellent schools in action and am in awe of the talent and enthusiasm, variety and excellence to be found in independent schools.  Save the date for connecting with information!

Have you checked out our new section, Clubs for Kids!?

Button up, stay warm and enjoy the holidays. Parmalee

 

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  The Joy of Making Things

(Photos General) Tinkering.jpgIn New Haven, Connecticut, where I live with my husband and two sons, we are lucky to have nearby the Eli Whitney Museum. This place is the opposite of a please don't touch repository of fine art. It's an "experimental learning workshop" where kids engage in an essential but increasingly rare activity: they make stuff. Right now, looking around my living room, I can see lots of the stuff made there by my older son: a model ship that can move around in water with the aid of a battery-powered motor he put together; a "camera obscura" that can project a real-world scene onto a wall in a darkened room; a wooden pinball game he designed himself. (You can view an archive of Eli Whitney Museum projects here.)

The people who run Eli Whitney call these hands-on projects "experiments." As they put it: "Experiments are a way of learning things. They require self-guided trial and error, active exploration, and testing by all the senses. Experiments begin with important questions, questions that make you think or that inspire you to create." This process of exploring, testing and finding out is vital to children's intellectual and psychological development-but opportunities to engage in it are fewer than they once were. "My friends and I grew up playing around in the garage, fixing our cars," says Frank Keil, a Yale University psychologist who is in his early 60's. "Today kids are sealed in a silicon bubble. They don't know how anything works."

Many others have noticed this phenomenon. Engineering professors report that students now enter college without the kind of hands-on expertise they once unfailingly possessed. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, "we scour the country looking for young builders and inventors," says Kim Vandiver, dean for undergraduate research. "They're getting harder and harder to find." MIT now offers classes and extracurricular activities devoted to taking things apart and putting them together, an effort to teach students the skills their fathers and grandfathers learned curbside on weekend afternoons.

Why should this matter? Some would argue that the digital age has rendered such technical know-how obsolete. Our omnipresent devices work the way we want them to (well, most of the time), with no skill required beyond pushing a button. What's to be gained by knowing how they work?

(Photos General) Tinkering3.jpgActually, a lot. Research in the science of learning shows that hands-on building projects help young people conceptualize ideas and understand issues in greater depth. In an experiment described in the International Journal of Engineering Education in 2009, for example, one group of eighth-graders was taught about water resources in the traditional way: classroom lectures, handouts and worksheets. Meanwhile, a group of their classmates explored the same subject by designing and constructing a water purification device. The students in the second group learned the material better: they knew more about the importance of clean drinking water and how it is produced, and they engaged in deeper and more complex thinking in response to open-ended questions on water resources and water quality.

If we want more young people to choose a profession in one of the group of crucial fields known as STEM-science, technology, engineering and math-we ought to start cultivating these interests and skills early. But the way to do so may not be the kind of highly structured and directed instruction that we usually associate with these subjects. Instead, some educators have begun taking seriously an activity often dismissed as a waste of time: tinkering. Tinkering is the polar opposite of the test-driven, results-oriented approach of No Child Left Behind: it involves a loose process of trying things out, seeing what happens, reflecting and evaluating, and trying again.

"Tinkering is the way that real science happens, in all its messy glory," says Sylvia Martinez, co-author of the new book Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom. Martinez is one of the leaders of the "makers' movement," a nationwide effort to help kids discover the value of getting their hands dirty and their minds engaged. The next generation of scientists-and artists, and inventors, and entrepreneurs-may depend on it.

Brilliant readers, did you grow up tinkering? Do you think today's kids are missing out on this experience? Please share your thoughts on the Brilliant Blog, here.

I love to hear from readers. Please email me at annie@anniemurphypaul.com. You can also visit my website, follow me on Twitter, and join the conversation on Facebook. Be brilliant!

  Ask Nicole: Practical solutions to everyday parenting challenges

Healthy eating and managing stress

-By Nicole M. Young, MSW

Triple P

Raising kids is incredibly rewarding-and possibly the hardest job you'll ever have. Whether you're a parent, a grandparent or other caregiver of a child or teen, chances are you've wished for support and guidance at one time or another. I know I have.

This column was created to provide a forum for sharing parenting questions and suggest practical solutions that strengthen family relationships. This month we're looking at some common parenting challenges, including how to teach your teen healthy eating habits and how to manage stress. Keep reading to get practical tips and ideas based on the world-renowned Triple P Positive Parenting Program, available to families in Santa Cruz County. If you have a question for next month, please email me at triplep@first5scc.org.

Dear Nicole,

(Photos General) Veggies.jpgMy 14-year old son is growing like crazy and wants to eat all the time. When he's home, I can make sure he eats healthy food.  But he's spending more time away from home with friends or playing sports, which means he's missing family meals and eating junk food. How do I teach him to make smart choices about what he eats, even when I'm not with him?  -Sarah, Aptos

Dear Sarah,

As the mother of a 13-year old eating machine, I can relate. The teen years are a critical time of growth and development, and the eating habits your son develops now will affect his health for many years. Your son is becoming more independent. So he may resist being told what to do. Yet he probably still needs guidance about healthy choices. It's not unusual for teens to skip meals or eat away from home because of social activities, sports or other afterschool commitments. It doesn't help that the convenience of fast foods, energy drinks and snacks can be an attractive option for teens on the go.

Here are some tips for helping your son develop healthy eating habits on his own:

  • Talk with him about the importance of eating healthy foods, especially since he's active in sports. Explain that junk food and energy drinks might taste good, but they won't provide him with what needs to do well in sports.
  • Ask your son to make a list of foods he likes and dislikes. Review the list together and identify foods that are healthy and easy for him to eat quickly or take with him on the go. Then, ensure those foods are available, so he always has access to quick, healthy options.
  • Agree together on what junk food he can have and when. It may be unrealistic to expect he will never eat junk food or fast food. Instead, focus on choosing healthier foods more often and only eating junk food occasionally.
  • Aim to have dinner as a family as often as possible, since this provides a great opportunity to connect and model healthy eating habits. Try involving your son in planning and preparing the meal. This will help him learn another skill he will eventually need - how to cook for himself!

Dear Nicole,

The last few months have been fairly stressful because my family recently moved and I have a new job. My kids talk back to me and won't listen, and then I end up yelling at them a lot. Sometimes I think they push my buttons on purpose to get a reaction out of me.  What can I do?  --Juan, Watsonville

Dear Juan,

(Photos General) WalkingDad.jpgFirst of all, congratulations on your new job!  Children often test limits when they're faced with changes and new situations. It's their way of figuring out how the changes will affect their lives. To help your kids adapt, look for ways to involve them in creating new routines at home. This will not only help your children understand how your new job affects the family's daily routines, but will make life feel more predictable for all of you.

Also, I hear many parents talk about being tired, stretched too thin and stressed out. One of the best things to do is acknowledge that these feelings are normal and ask for support. It's also important to take time for yourself and look after your own needs so you are physically and emotionally ready to meet your children's needs. Whether it's taking a walk around the block, driving the scenic route home, listening to music or talking with a friend, build in short breaks for yourself so you can recharge and be prepared to meet each day's challenges and opportunities.

 

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  This Week

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Submit your event!


Holiday Events


 

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School Corner

 

 

Santa Cruz Waldorf K-8,  Waldorf Alive! A Walk Through the Grades 12/11

 

 

Mount Madonna Pre-12, Disney's Aladdin Jr 12/14-15

 

 

Mount Madonna Pre-12, Campus Tour 12/17

 

Spring Hill School K-6, Kindergarten Roundup 1/11

 

 

Save the date!

Independent School Fair, 12/15

 

 

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Holiday Break Camps & Special Workshops

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West Performing Arts
Camps

 

The Art Factory
Holiday Gift Making
Winter Break Camps

 

Junebug's Gym
Winter Camp

 

Santa Cruz County 
Parks & Rec
Winter Camp

 

MakersFactory
Winter Camp

 

Santa Cruz Soccer 
Winter Camp

 

Santa Cruz Gymnastics


Catalyst Soccer
Futsol Fun Winter Camp

Holiday Fairs, Events and Fun!

 

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Carriage Rides Downtown Santa Cruz

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Finding Beach Treasures

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Vasona Lake Park lights

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Roaring Camp Tree Walk

 

All Holiday Events are in the Calendar!

 

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Thinking about Preschool in January?

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December 14
11am - 3pm

 

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 Mad Hatters holiday Tea Party

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Mad Hatter's Holiday Tea Party

The Quail & Thistle Tea Room
Join us for Tea and Absurd-i-Tea!
December 15 
$8 to $47

The Mad Hatter invites you to lighthearted madness and mayhem! Join the Hatter, Alice and other Wonderland characters.

Step through the looking glass to join characters from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland in a tea party that only a mad hatter could dream up! Take tea with Alice! Join in the fun - costumes are encouraged!

Kindly plan to bring along with you a new, unwrapped toy per person attending to donate to Toy For Tots.

For information about Toys for Tots, visit SantaCruzCounty.ToysForTots.org

Kid-friendly Mad Hatter Holiday Tea Party?  Click here!  3 Family Seatings available at 11am, 1pm & 3:30pm  (prices $39/$29/$10  

Adult evening seating, a Tea Party & Auction, at 6pm for adults only $59

Feast on a delightful variety of sweet and savory dishes, baked sweets and fruit, and The Quail & Thistle's famously fabulous fresh baked scones with cream, jam, and lemon curd. Fresh brewed black, green, and herbal teas will be served. Vegetarian option available on request - please make a note on the reservation.

Your after-dinner entertainment will feature a light'n lively live auction benefiting Santa Cruz County Toys for Tots. What fabulous prizes will follow you home this evening?

Dinner starts promptly at 6pm. Reservations are required no later than Friday Dec 13. $59 per person, ages 21 and up only. Sorry, but kids just can't handle this much fun! Be prepared to show photo id or a note from your children.

All four events will feature the Queen and Court, including Alice, the White Rabbit and of course, the Mad Hatter. Join us for Tea and Absurd-i-Tea!

Please bring one unwrapped toy per person. Please, no stuffed animals or toys of aggression. There will be a raffle and silent auction too!  Thank you for your support of this event that brings smiles to so many children in our community at this time of year. 

Location: 911 Capitola Ave., Capitola Map
Phone: (831) 477-1798 •website Capitola

Guided Elephant Seal Walks Start Dec 15
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  Guided Elephant Seal Walks Start Dec 15
State Park Ano Nuevo
Date: Every day (Oct 25-Mar 31)
Ages: All: (Lots of walking)
Details: 3 mile hike over sand and sloping terrain to see thousands of elephant seals, including newborn pups, their mothers, and bulls
Special Instructions: Dec 15 - Mar 31
City: Pescadero Phone: 800.444.4445 view all details >>
     
Books and Tinkering!
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  Books and Tinkering!
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Books and Tinkering!
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Books and Tinkering!
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  Books and Tinkering!
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Books and Tinkering!
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  Books and Tinkering!
Date:
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Toy Trains 2014
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  Toy Trains 2014
MAH and The Over the Hill Gang
Date: Every day (Dec 19-Dec 28)
Ages: All
Details: What is Christmas without toy trains and this is an interactive display!
City: Santa Cruz Phone: 831.429.1964 view all details >>
     
Every Picture Tells a Story
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  Every Picture Tells a Story
State Park Wilder Ranch
Date: 05/09/2015 from 11:00am to 3:00pm
Details: Artistically tell your story about Wilder Ranch!
City: Santa Cruz Phone: (831) 426-0505 view all details >>
     
Books and Tinkering!
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  Books and Tinkering!
Date:
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Books and Tinkering!
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  Books and Tinkering!
Date:
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Books and Tinkering!
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  Books and Tinkering!
Date:
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A Boomer Christmas
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  A Boomer Christmas
Saratoga History Museum
Date: Every Su, Fri and Sa (Nov 21-Jan 25) from 10:00am to 4:00pm
Details: It's a Boomer Christmas-Toys from the 1950's, 60's and 70's
City: Saratoga Phone: (408) 867-4311 view all details >>
     
Books and Tinkering!
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  Books and Tinkering!
Date:
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Guided Elephant Seal Walks Start Dec 15
click to view website
  Guided Elephant Seal Walks Start Dec 15
State Park Ano Nuevo
Date: Every day (Oct 25-Mar 31)
Ages: All: (Lots of walking)
Details: 3 mile hike over sand and sloping terrain to see thousands of elephant seals, including newborn pups, their mothers, and bulls
Special Instructions: Dec 15 - Mar 31
City: Pescadero Phone: 800.444.4445 view all details >>
     
Books and Tinkering!
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  Books and Tinkering!
Date:
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Mad Scientist Experiments
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  Mad Scientist Experiments
Santa Cruz County Parks - Quail Hollow Ranch
Date: 12/15/2013 from 1:00pm to 3:00pm
Ages: 7 and up
Details: Experiment making slime, playing with static electricity, and make cabbage water turn colors
City: Felton Phone: (831) 335-9348 view all details >>
     
Santa's Kingdom Holiday Lights Train
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  Santa's Kingdom Holiday Lights Train
Roaring Camp Railroads
Date: Every day (Nov 27-Dec 23)
Details: Sing along to seasonal carols while sipping hot-spiced cider, listen to musical entertainment, and enjoy a visit from Santa and
City: Felton Phone: (831) 335-4484 view all details >>
     
Books and Tinkering!
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  Books and Tinkering!
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  2013 Children's Literature Award Winners

Thank you Bookshop Santa Cruz!

The American Library Association Announces:
2013 CHILDREN'S LITERATURE AWARD WINNERS

NEWBERY MEDAL
For the most outstanding contribution to children's literature

Winner: The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Honors:
Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz
Bomb: The Race to Build - and Steal - the World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin
Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage

CALDECOTT MEDAL
For the most distinguished American picture book for children

Winner: This Is Not My Hat written and illustrated by Jon Klassen

Honors:
Creepy Carrots written by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Peter Brown
Extra Yarn written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen
Green written and illustrated by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
One Cool Friend written by Toni Buzzeo and illustrated by David Small
Sleep Like a Tiger written by Mary Logue and illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski

CORETTA SCOTT KING AUTHOR AWARD
Recognizing an African American author of outstanding books for children and young adults

Winner:
Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America written and illustrated by Andrea and Brian Pinkney
Honors:
Each Kindness written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by E.B. Lewis
No Crystal Stair written by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

CORETTA SCOTT KING ILLUSTRATOR AWARD
Recognizing an African American illustrator of outstanding books for children and young adults

Winner:
I, Too, Am America written by Langston Hughes and illustrated by Brian Collier
Honors:
H.O.R.S.E. written and illustrated by Christopher Myers
Ellen's Broom written by Kelly Lyons and illustrated by Daniel Minter
I Have a Dream written by Martin Luther King, Jr. and illustrated by Kadir Nelson

MICHAEL A. PRINTZ AWARD

Winner:
In Darkness by Nick Lake
Honors:
Artistotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Dodger by Terry Pratchett
The White Bicycle by Beverley Brenna

 

SCHNEIDER FAMILY BOOK AWARD
For books that embody an artistic expression of the disability experience

Winner (age 0-10):
Back to Front and Upside Down! by Claire Alexander

 

 

 

 

Winner (age 11-13):
A Dog Called Homeless by Sarah Lean

 

 

 

 

 

Winner (age 14-18):
Somebody, Please Tell Me Who I Am by Harry Mazer and Peter Lerangis

 

 

 

 

 

MILDRED L. BATCHELDER AWARD
For an outstanding children's book originally published in a language other than English in a country other than the United States and subsequently translated into English for publication in the United States

Winner:
My Family for the War by Anne Voorhoeve
Honors:
A Game for Swallows by Zeina Abirached
Son of a Gun by Anne de Graaf

ODYSSEY AWARD
For best audiobook produced for children and/or young adults

Winner:
The Fault in Our Stars written by John Green and narrated by Kate Rudd
Honors:
Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian written by Eoin Colfer and narrated by Nathaniel Parker
Ghost Knight written by Cornelia Funke and narrated by Elliot Hill
Monstrous Beauty written by Elizabeth Fama and narrated by Katherine Kellgren

 

PURA BELPRE ILLUSTRATOR AWARD
Honoring a Latino illustrator whose children's books best portray, affirm and celebrate the Latino cultural experience

Winner:
Martin de Porres: The Rose in the Desert written by Gary D. Schmidt and illustrated by David Diaz

 

 

PURA BELPRE AUTHOR AWARD
Honoring a Latino writer whose children's books best portray, affirm and celebrate the Latino cultural experience

Winner:
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe written by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Honors:
The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano by Sonia Manzano

 

 

ROBERT F. SILBERT INFORMATIONAL BOOK AWARD
For most distinguished informational book for children

Winner:
Bomb: The Race to Build--and Steal--the World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin
Honors:
Electric Ben by Robert Byrd
Moonbird by Phillip Hoose
Titanic: Voices from the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson

STONEWALL BOOK AWARD
For children's and young adult books of exceptional merit relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender experience

Winner:
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe written by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Honors:
Drama by Raina Telgemeier
Gone, Gone, Gone by Hannah Moskowitz
October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard by Leslea Newman
Sparks: The Epic, Completely True, (Almost) Holy Quest of Debbie by S.J. Adams

THEODOR SEUSS GEISEL
Award for the most distinguished beginning reader book

Winner:
Up, Tall and High! by Ethan Long
Honors:
Let's Go for a Drive! by Mo Willems
Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons by Eric Litwin
Rabbit and Robot: The Sleepover by Cece Bell

 

WILLIAM C. MORRIS AWARD
For a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens

Winner:
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
Honors:
Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby
Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo
After the Snow by S.D. Crockett
The Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily m. danforth

YALSA AWARD
For Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults

Winner:
Bomb: The Race to Build--and Steal--the World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin
Honors:
Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different by Karen Blumenthal
Moonbird by Phillip Hoose
Titanic: Voices from the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson
We've Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children's March by Cynthia Levinson

  Twelve Books of Christmas

"The universe is made up of stories, not of atoms"
- Muriel Rukeyser, American poet and political activist

In the spirit of season, here are Twelve Books for Christmas for the children in your lives-from the Santa-believers to the scientists, the fantasists to the crafty, and the lovers of adventure whatever their ages.

 

PRE & EARLY READERS (AGES 3 TO 8)

Xander's Panda Party by Linda Sue Park, Illustrations by Matt Phelan

panda-partyXander the Panda is planning a Panda party but when he realises that he is the only Panda at the zoo he decides to invite the other bears too. As news of the party spreads through the zoo, Xander adds the mammals, the birds and the reptiles to the invitation list until suddenly he finds that everyone is invited. Oh no! thinks Xander, but thanks to his new friend Amanda Salamander, a party for one turns into fun for everyone.

Linda Sue Park is a Newberry medallist who mixes in plenty of animal facts in this engaging lyrical story. The ink and watercolour images by Matt Phelan were inspired by hours at the Philadelphia Zoo. The result is a colourful, playful story for pre-schoolers and early readers alike.

 

The Naughtiest Reindeer by Nicki Greenberg

the-naughtiest-reindeerAustralian writer and illustrator Nicki Greenberg has Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer laid up in bed with a terrible cold on Christmas Eve. In desperation, Santa must let Rudolf's silly, flighty, naughty sister Ruby light the way instead. But Ruby is soon bored of waiting around on rooftops whilst Santa delivers presents and eats cookies and decides to escape. A flustered Santa returns to the North Pole not realising he has forgotten to deliver the presents to one house. Mrs Claus must save the day with only hours before the children wake up!

Told in rhyme and coupled with bright, cheery illustrations, this is a busy book which works well as a read-alone book for early and independent readers but, because of the rhyme, it is a great read-aloud book too. Not at all cheesy, The Naughtiest Reindeer is definitely a great choice for a Christmassy title.

 

Octopus's Garden by Ringo Starr, Illustrations by Ben Cort

octopus's-gardenThis perennial favourite is given a new lease of life with the packaging of a CD featuring Ringo Starr so that everyone can sing along with the great man himself.

Ben Cort's illustrations are divine-imaginative, vibrant and incredibly detailed and Ringo even gives a reading as well.

Wonderfully interactive and perfect for making your younger readers bop around the lounge-mine certainly did-several times!

 

MIDDLE READERS (AGES 8 TO 12)

Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman

furtunately-the-milkWhen their mum goes away on a business trip and leaves dad in charge, the last and most important thing she tells him is that they are almost out of milk. The next morning dad goes down to the corner shop to buy milk and takes forever. On his eventual return, the children ask him what took him so long, and dad embarks on a fantastical tale involving snot-gobbly space aliens who want to redecorate the planet, Professor Steg and her Floaty-Ball-Person-Carrier, two-headed pirates, wumpires, talking ponies and a galactic police force made up entirely of dinosaurs. As dad travels backwards and forwards through time, he swears he only has one mission-to get home to his children so they can have milk on their cereal.

Neil Gaiman channels Dr Who and The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy in this zany adventure. Amazing illustrations by Chris Riddell add an extra giggle factor as he brings to life a gallery of characters such as Mad Matilda the Girl Buccaneer and Splod the God of People with Short Funny Names. Popping this under the Christmas tree will bring guaranteed adoration from the middle reader in your life.

The Kensington Reptilarium by N.J. Gemmell

the-kensington-reptilariumKick, Scruff, Bert and Pin's dad is always off on adventures to exotic places like the jungles of Borneo, Ceylon or Paris leaving Kick and her younger siblings running amok on their homestead 300 miles from Alice Springs. But this Christmas, father does not come home and the four children find they are faced with a terrible choice-an orphanage or living with some relative they have never heard of, Uncle Basti, at the Kensington Reptilarium in war-torn London.

Confronted by a sign that says, ENTER AT OWN RISK, DEATH MAY FOLLOW, the four children are about to embark on the biggest adventure of their lifetimes and if they are very lucky, their biggest Christmas wish may come true.

Nikki Gemmell has written a wonderful tale reminiscent of The Famous Five or The Railway Children. She channels all that is nostalgically great about those kinds of children's books-where four rough and ready heroes take on the world and win- and given it a modern twist. This will be a definite hit with the chapter book readers in your life and a great read aloud choice for their younger siblings.

 

The True Meaning of SmekDay by Adam Rex

the-true-meaning-of-smekdayGratuity "Tip' Tucci finds herself on the road with her cat Pig and a Boov called J.Lo after the Boovs invade Earth on Christmas Day-now renamed Smekday.

Since the human race has inconveniently refused to assimilate, the Boovs have had them sign a treaty handing over the Earth, turned the state of Florida into a Reservation and sent the humans to live there. Her mum has been sucked up by the Boov after being mole-marked and forced to do laundry so Gratuity, an eighth grader of tremendous resourcefulness and spunk, sets off on one of the most hilarious road trips ever encountered. Can Tip, Pig and J.Lo rescue her mum and save the world from another alien invasion from the terrifying Gorgs?  A delightful, quirky and exceptionally entertaining blend of prose, graphics and cartoon, which should make be a winner with mature independent readers.

 

YOUNG ADULT (AGES 12 TO 18)

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathon Stroud

the-screaming-staircaseA.J. Lockwood & Co. Investigators are one of a small handful of firms that specialise in hunting ghosts. In the last 50 years, London has become overcrowded with these Visitors who are invading the houses of the city adding up to what is euphemistically called, the Problem.

Mrs Hope, whose husband suffered a mysterious and brutal fall down the stairs resulting in his death, calls in Anthony Lockwood and his young sidekick Lucy Carlyle.

Unfortunately, in the process of ridding her residence of a particularly violent ghost, Lucy accidentally burns Mrs Hope's house to the ground. Already running the business on the smell of an oily rag, Lockwood & Co have one chance to redeem their reputation and their finances-to this end, they must spend the night in the most haunted house in the whole of England and hope they escape with their lives.

Lots of old school fun in this new series for older primary and younger teen readers. Ghosts, feisty heroes and a liberal sprinkling of humour makes this an adventure worth reading by torchlight under the covers-as many a young reader will be tempted to do.

Man Made Boy by Jon Skovron

man-made-boyBoy is the son of Frankenstein's monster and his Bride. The family live under a New York City theatre along with all a range mythical creatures and monsters from Medusa and the Minotaur to the bratty Shaun the Faun. At night they put on a show for the humans who flock to see them and by day they hide in the catacombs they have built beneath the city.

17 year old Boy is not part of the show, rather he spends his days in internet chat rooms or working on his pet project-creating a computer virus that can think for itself. When his parents reveal they intend to send Boy to live with the Frankensteins in Switzerland so he can attend the University of Geneva, Boy freaks. He has only been Outside once, but he cannot bear the thought of having to live with the Frankensteins and decides to take his destiny into his own hands. Boy runs away, with his favourite computer and the precious virus, and finds the real world can be scarier than a whole theatre full of monsters.

Skovoron exploration of the transition from boyhood to manhood is both compassionate and funny. Who hasn't felt like a geek, a monster or a misfit? Who hasn't felt like running away or that no one understands us. And of course, running away often isn't the solution and nor is it for Boy. Hooking up with the granddaughters of Jekyll and Hyde makes for a hilarious adventure but in the end, Boy must face his parents and a few home truths. A totally delightful and richly imagined tale.

Wide Awake by Hilary T. Smith

wild-awakeSeventeen year old Kiri Byrd is left home alone as her parents take off on a cruise to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. It gives her plenty of time to practice for the International Young Pianists' Showcase, that is, when she is not hanging out in the divine Lukas' basement rehearsing for the semi-finals of the Battle of the Bands.

The next few weeks are perfectly planned until Kiri receives a phone call from a strange man who claims to have some belongings her dead sister had left behind in her artist's studio. Riding downtown to meet with him, Kiri wonders what Sukey could have left behind, hopes it is some of her amazing paintings, but finds out that there is an awful lot Kiri doesn't know about Sukey's life. And that their mother and father have told Kiri a completely different story about how her older sister died.

This is a real page turner that blends the joy of a summer of love and music on the cusp of adulthood with the terrible truths wrought by tragic loss. Definitely one for the older teens as there is some drug usage and more mature themes. Give them Wild Awake for Christmas and they may not leave their bedroom for a day or two, but at least you'll know why. Once you start reading this cracker of a debut, it's very hard to put down.

 

 

NON-FICTION TITLES

How To Make Small Things With Violet Mackerel by Anna Bradford, Illustrations by Sarah Davis

how-to-make-small-thingsWriter Anna Branford has put together this delightfully whimsical craft book as a companion piece to her hugely successful Violet Mackerel's Brilliant Plot. It's all about small things-to wear, to use or to give. Amongst the collection are a sunshine ring, a note book and hair slides. Rather than giving the crafty child in your life a present with a lot of annoying beady bits that end up sucked up the tube of the vacuum cleaner, this is a book of ideas. Simply explained, clearly and beautifully drawn and illustrated by Sarah Davis, this little book is a gem.

For my money, it is for about ages 7 if they have good fine motor skills and patience, up to about 11. Buy some felt and a few of the bits and bobs itemised in the book, and your crafty one will be well set to while away a few holiday hours.

Dr Karl's Big Book of Science Stuff & Nonsense by Dr Karl Kruszelnicki

big-book-of-science-stuffDrawings, puzzles, quizzes , poetry (?), experiments and word games on all the important subjects from Space, the Human Body, Dinosaurs, Bugs-in fact all creatures big and small from under the sea, to high in the sky plus everything else in between.

This is the perfect present for the curious kids, bored kids, kids on road trips or kids stuck inside on a rainy day.

Ages 7 to 11 will love this offering from Australia's favourite oddball scientist and they probably won't even notice that they are learning something!

 

The Journey by Coral Tulloch

the-journeyPart story, part fantastical adventure, The Journey is as interactive as a child can get without a computer in front of them (Thank Goodness! I hear you cry.)

To make The Journey, your child will need a pencil, something to count with such as buttons, dice, a small coin, spare paper and a wonderful imagination. Armed with this vital equipment, that can join their guide Bernard on an adventure of their very own making.
What makes The Journey even more appealing is that no matter how many times they play the game, there is always a different outcome.

Coral Tulloch created a syndicated page for children that ran for over 20 years and has illustrated over 50 children's books. With The Journey, she has created a book that is a visual treat blending information, story and entertainment. The over 8s will be over the moon with this treasure of a book although the appeal will definitely creep into the younger teen market too.

 

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE...

Jackie French: The Power of Books

Goodbye to One of the Greats

The Biggest Books of the Year

It's Never Too Late To Reinvent Yourself

 

Meredith Jaffé is a writer, avid reader and The Hoopla's books editor. Her reviews have been featured in the NSW Writers' Centre 366 Days of Writing and in 2013 she was a member of the expert panel that selects the longlist for the Australian Book Industry Awards. When she is avoiding work, she cooks, plays Scrabble online or occasionally updates her Facebook page.

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