Toy Review: PlaSmart’s Watermelon Ball JR

This summer we played with PlaSmart’s Watermelon Ball JR, a water toy I thought the kids might play with for a couple minutes and then get bored. But we all found it really fun!

As you can see, it floats! Here the predator stalks its prey:

 

 

But it also moves underwater really well. Whether at the beach or (better) in a swimming pool, we had lots of fun passing it to each other and playing keep away by pushing it through the water. Even though it pops up to the surface to float, you can move it around pretty easily underwater.

The ball comes with a mechanism to easily fill it with water from a hose—we filled it to probably about 2/3 full, which ended up working just fine. It hasn’t leaked at all.

Here are a couple of more images from PlaSmart.

The Watermelon Ball is so named because it is:

Designed to look, feel, and behave like a watermelon in water. Real watermelons are nearly neutrally buoyant: first sinking to the bottom then slowly rising to the top, making them ideal for all kinds of water games.

It probably would have been pretty fun to be among the group of people testing out real watermelons to discover that they are “nearly neutrally buoyant” (probably a pool party accident). I didn’t cross-test this toy against a watermelon, so can’t speak to the similarities, but the toy definitely does what it promises.

Here is the product page. You can follow PlaSmart via Twitter and Facebook. And here’s the ball on Amazon.

They are also the makers of the “cool, cool car”! and this play mat that we reviewed a few years ago.

 


 

 

Thanks to the good folks at PlaSmart for the review sample, provided for review but with no expectation as to the content of this post.

 

Drawn from Nature: A Stunning Children’s Book

Helen Ahpornsiri’s Drawn from Nature might be the most beautiful children’s book we’ve ever read. (And we’ve read a lot of them over the years.)

Ahpornsiri uses plants pressed by hand to lead the reader through the four seasons: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter. The text itself is informative and lyrical, but the artwork is stunning.

Here are some pictures:

 

 

 

 

 

 

I can’t imagine how long it takes to illustrate a book (let alone do one page!) with hand-pressed plants. This 64-page book invites staring and wonder at the beauty of creation… not just that Ahpornsiri created from pressed plants, but how she did it. The creations that emerge are gorgeous.

My kids have gotten lost in this book already, as have I. It’s really fun to read a section at bedtime, but any child—reader or not—can easily find themselves swept up in these pages.

You can go here to look inside. Find the book at Amazon here, or through its publisher here.

 


 

Thanks to the good folks at Candlewick/Big Picture Press for sending the book for review, though that did not influence my opinions.

Family Bike Ride!

For the first time ever, last weekend, the whole K-J family went for a bike ride. We covered nearly 10 miles! I was impressed with our whole crew.

Amazingly, we fit all five bikes in the van without a bike rack.

  

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More to follow, I hope!

From the Creator of Captain Underpants: Dog Man

Our children don’t need any encouragement in the area of scatalogical humor, but here we all have been anyway, laughing through the pages of Dav Pilkey’s new Dog Man. (Pilkey of Captain Underpants fame.) That is to say–this book would not be something to read to your four-year-old daughter. Unless, uh, she had two older brothers and was already unfazed by such humor.

Case in point:

 

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Dog Man, as Pilkey tells it, is the creation of George Beard and Harold Hutchins, two comic-writing friends whose teacher, Ms. Construde, clearly does not appreciate their “disruptive activity in my classroom.” All my kids love it, of course.

The premise itself is a little more violent than I would have liked for my (or any) kids: Dog Man is born when the evil cat Petey blows up Officer Knight and his dog Greg:

Doctor: I’m sorry Greg, but your body is dying. and your head is dying too, cop.

Officer: Rats! I sure hate my dying head!

But just when all seemed lost…

Nurse Lady: Hey! Why don’t we sew Greg’s head onto cop’s body?

Doctor: Good idea, nurse lady! You’re a genius!

Here “a brand-new crime-fighting sensation was unleashed.”

Dog Man the character is about what you would expect from somebody who is half man, half dog. He battles Petey, then Robo Chief, and then a giant, walking Philly cheesesteak mascot in chapter 4, “Weenie Wars: The Franks Awaken.” This last chapter was probably the funniest and best part of the book. Sample lines:

OH look! Little baby hot dogs are starting a revolution!!!!

We’re not little babies! we’re regular sized!

(Their subsequent claim to be “gangsta” will go over kids’ heads and seems to unfortunately engage in cultural appropriation.)

A fun feature that comes up at several points is the “Flip-O-Rama,” where you can create a little bit of animation by quickly flipping between pages. At this moment I’m looking at the book’s warning: “Remember—Flip it, Don’t Rip it!!!!!!”, which happens to be right next to a newly made rip in our edition. Oh, well.

The section in the back of the book with “How 2 Draw” different characters is icing on the cake.

For how inexpensive the book is, I was pleasantly surprised to see a sewn binding. The colors are vibrant and the lettering is what you would expect from Dav-Pilkey-as-two-kids-writing-a-comic. It inspired my own kids to write their own. (Details forthcoming, or maybe we’ll just try for a book deal.)

If you’re trying to avoid scatological humor, don’t get this book. If you’ve maybe slacked a little with your standards for your kids in that regard, they’ll probably love Dog Man.

You can find the book at Scholastic’s page here. It’s also available at Amazon here. Dav Pilkey’s got his own site, too.

 


 

Thanks to Scholastic for the review copy, given with no expectation as to the content of the review.

Mamoko: A World Where Kids Read to the Grown-Ups

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Some of the best book gifts our oldest child has received have been Maps and Animalium from Big Picture Press, an imprint of Candlewick.

Our kids have also spent many collective minutes and hours poring over two books from The World of Mamoko series: The World of Mamoko in the Year 3000 and The World of Mamoko in the Time of Dragons.

The premise of Mamoko is simple: “Use your eyes!” to “follow the adventures” of more than two dozen different characters through seven detailed spreads that span two pages each. The books are hardback, like giant board books, so they’ll last us a long time. The target age range is 5-8 years old, but my four-year-old (who can’t yet read) really enjoys looking at the pictures, too.

Here’s a spread from World of Mamoko in the Time of Dragons:

 

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It’s lots of fun. There are short descriptions of each character that help in knowing what to look for. For example, a pink elephant (holding a hammer?) is Othello Smith:

OTHELLO SMITH is feeling bummed out. What is the cause of his distress?

The book is pretty funny. And it’s big enough that, like the Where’s Waldo? books, two people can easily look for characters and their antics at the same time.

But I told Candlewick my kids would help me review these two books, and a promise is a promise, so… here are my nine-year-old’s review notes from The World of Mamoko in the Year 3000:

 

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And here’s his short take on The World of Mamoko in the Time of Dragons:

 

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You can find all three Mamoko titles at Candlewick’s page here. They’re also available at Amazon here.

 


 

Thanks to Candlewick Press for the review copies, given with no expectation as to the content of the review.

My Six-Year-Old’s Review of Shark Attack! (Scholastic)

Shark Attack

 

My six-year-old son wanted to start a blog to write book reviews, so I’m turning my blog over to him for today’s post. Below is his review of Shark Attack! (Scholastic, 2013), including a bit of Q and A between me and him. Enjoy.

 


 

I like this book.

Because it tells me about sharks. How long they can open their mouths.

 

What was your favorite part about this book?

When the shark does diving.

What was surprising about the book?

That sharks can hear.

How can they hear?

They sense it. “Sharks hear sounds too low for you to hear.”

Who would like this book?

Me.

 

Shark Attack Review

 

Where to find it: Amazon / Scholastic
Grade Level: 1 through 3
32 Pages, full color images