Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Berenstain Bears: Blessed are the Peacemakers by Mike Berenstain

Purchase Link:

The Berenstain Bears Blessed are the Peacemakers (Berenstain Bears/Living Lights)

My Rating: 4/5 stars

My Thoughts:

You may remember a couple of weeks ago, I posted about how The Berenstain Bears are hit/miss for me. Since we enjoyed God Shows the Way, I thought we could give this one a try, too. Also, we recently talked about how Joseph(Son of Jacob) was a peacemaker while he was in prison, attempting to tie that to how we shouldn't fight with our brothers. I thought this book would be a good read to reinforce that lesson.

In Blessed are the Peacemakers, we meet two "gangs". One gang is a group of troublemakers, and one is a group of smart kids. Since Brother and Sister Bear like to get along with everyone, they weren't a part of either group. They become the peacemakers when these two groups are fighting. At one point, the fighting becomes so bad that a few adults have to step in and be the peacemakers.

Bullying is such a tough topic! In this story, Brother and Sister step in between two *groups* of fighting bears and Cousin Fred says a Bible verse, which stops the fight. In reality, that most likely would have bought him a punch in the face, instead of peace. Even so, I think the author did a pretty decent job of getting the message across, especially with such a short read. With bullying, I would recommend to my children that they find an adult, if possible, especially when so many others are involved. Of course, I don't ever want them to stand by and do nothing at all. They're still so young(Grasshopper isn't an average 5 year old) that I haven't really got into what they should do if someone is being bullied. Again, it's a tough topic, and there's so many possibilities to consider.

For the most part, I focused on how we don't fight with our brothers, and how we don't make fun of others because they are different than us, or like different things. We're all God's children. Grasshopper is very sensitive to things like that. Typically when I explain that we don't say certain things that could embarrass or hurt someone's feelings, he takes it pretty seriously. I like when books like these give us openings to discuss different topics that don't come up in everyday life for us. With many things in life, it's better to discuss things before it happens, as opposed to after. (There's also some discussion questions listed in the back.)

Overall, while not perfect, I appreciated this book and the discussions that resulted from it.

*I was provided a review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

The New Colored Pencil by Kristy Ann Kutch

About the Book:

Learn to draw and paint using colored pencils in The New Colored Pencil: a how-to guide for creating vibrant, textured, and easy art illustrations by best-selling author and teacher Kristy Kutch

Master the Latest Breakthroughs in Colored Pencil Art

If you want to create colorful, radiant works of art, colored pencil and related color media (wax pastels, watercolor pencils, and so on) provide you with limitless options for adding vibrancy to your creations. In The New Colored Pencil, artist and instructor Kristy Ann Kutch guides you through the latest developments in color drawing media with examples of and recommendations for the newest pencil brands, drawing surfaces, and groundbreaking techniques (including using the Grid Method, grating pigments, blending with heat, and more). Supported by step-by-step demonstrations and showcasing inspiring art from some of today’s best colored pencil artists, The New Colored Pencil shows you how to use color theory to your advantage, combine color media, create and enhance textures, and experiment with surfaces to create interesting effects. Whether you use traditional wax-based, or watercolor colored pencils, The New Colored Pencil will take your art to the next level.

Purchase Link:

The New Colored Pencil: Create Luminous Works with Innovative Materials and Techniques

About the Author:

KRISTY ANN KUTCH has taught more than two hundred colored pencil and watercolor pencil workshops to artists and students nationwide. She is the author of Drawing and Painting with Colored Pencil, and is a contributor to several colored pencil publications, including The Best of Colored Pencil, Creative Colored Pencil, and Colored Pencil Explorations. Her work has appeared in International Artist Magazine and Pratique des Arts. She also authored a DVD called Colored Pencil Landscapes: Beyond the Basics, released by Artist Palette Productions. Kutch is a resident of Michigan City, Indiana.

My Thoughts:

I'm new to the world of drawing/painting/art. Very new! My momma was blessed with a beautiful, natural talent to draw and paint. I grew up seeing her practice this talent and expand it. She has created beautiful pieces, and though I've always admired it, and wished I had been given that talent, I didn't get it naturally. That said, I DO want to learn to draw. It may not come naturally, but I've been feeling the pull in the artistic direction lately, and I really want to see what I can do with it. (Note: Even those blessed with natural talent have to put in hours/years of hard work and practice to grow and strengthen that talent, so please don't think I'm implying that's not the case!)

I decided to give The New Colored Pencil a try to see what it could teach me. There's all kind of beginner information in here! It's not really a step by step kind of book. Don't expect it to teach you how to draw step by step and color step by step for all the pictures. There ARE some steps on how to do certain techniques, but if you're wanting it specifically for that purpose, I think you'll be disappointed.

The book starts out explaining what kind of colored pencils are best. (Go for quality over quantity!) I loved that the book has different charts explaining different products, with characteristics(and price level for some). For example, the chart for colored pencils compares 13 different products. You can see how many shades each brand offers(these shades are shown in the appendix), price level, and characteristics for that particular brand. There are also other charts for materials you will need to create art with colored pencils. From there, you will see all kinds of definitions, directions, techniques, and many other things related to drawing with colored pencils. Honestly, for my beginner self, it's a little overwhelming at first, but I know that as I learn and grow, I'll get more and more benefit from this book.

As far as pictures, there are many of them to encourage you(or intimidate you)along the way. They have been created by various artists, and I'm amazed at the talent within this book! There's great beauty in these pages!

I DO recommend this book for beginners. If you're an old pro at colored pencil artistry, I imagine you'll already know most of this stuff. Then again, you might learn something new, too! :)

*I was provided a review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

The Zoo at the Edge of the World by Eric Kahn Gale

Amazon Purchase Link:

The Zoo at the Edge of the World by Eric Kahn Gale

Balzer + Bray (August 26, 2014) 240 pages

My Rating: 5/5 stars

My Thoughts:

This little story had me rapidly flipping the pages, and I really didn’t want to put it down when I had to!

Marlin stutters. He has an extraordinarily hard time moving words from his mouth when he is around humans. He lives in the jungle with his father, Ronan Rackham, and his brother, Tim, where they own and run a zoo/resort, with the help of the natives of the land. When Marlin talks to the animals, words come freely from his mouth. The moment a human comes in the picture, the words freeze.

Tim is a bully. He especially gives Marlin a hard time, and with their father’s encouragement, compete with each other for a monkey paw. The one with the honor of holding the paw is the one who has gained favor in their father’s eyes at that given time. Thankfully, Marlin does have animal friends, especially his pet monkey, Kenji. He also meets a new girl, named Olivia, who gives much support through the story.

At the ending, a little light bulb of recognition went off in my mind, and I had to smile. It made me love the book so much more. If this light bulb doesn’t go off for you, I imagine you’ll hate the ending. The Zoo at the Edge of the World, to me, seems to be a prequel, of sorts, to a classic in the children’s realm. (Honestly, I don't know if that's what the story is suppose to be, but it came off that way to me.) I adore re-tellings, and if I’d known, I’d have picked it up even sooner than I did. I won't give details, because that would ruin things for you, but this story IS a fantasy!

From a parent’s viewpoint, there is plenty within this book to open discussion and thinking. From a child’s standpoint, there is plenty of action, adventure, and courage to keep them(and me) flipping the pages. I won’t hesitate to put this book on my boys’ bookshelf for a few years down the road! (perfect for girls, too, should you have any of those!) ;)

In case you couldn't tell, I highly recommend The Zoo at the Edge of the World! I loved it.

*Thanks to Balzer + Bray and Edelweiss for providing me with an e-ARC, in exchange for my honest opinion.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Attack at the Arena by Marianne Hering and Paul McCusker

Attack at the Arena (AIO Imagination Station Books Book 2)

My Thoughts:

To see my thoughts on the first book, and some initial thoughts about the series, in general, click HERE.

Attack at the Arena is the 2nd book in the Imagination Station series. In this adventure, cousins Patrick and Beth travel to 5th century Rome in search of a monk's cup. Admittedly, I'm curious who Albert is. The writers have done a great job making a child/adult want to get from one book straight into another! There's little mysteries scattered about, like who Albert is and the ring.

While in Rome, Patrick and Beth meet a monk and Emperor Honorius. We learn a bit more about the world of arena fighting back then. As I mentioned in my post about Voyage of the Vikings, everything is really just touched on, as opposed to great detail. It leaves the parent(or child) open to add as much or as little detail for deeper studying. I've been doing a bit of history reading myself, trying to get people/places/events in the proper place in my brain. These stories have grabbed my interest, and I'm excited to do more studying, not only for myself, but for Grasshopper.

I'll mention briefly that there was one part I didn't care for. The monk informs Patrick that God told him where a certain person would be.

Overall, I've had fun within these stories, and I decided to go ahead and start reading Voyage with the Vikings with Grasshopper from my kindle(as opposed to locating a paper copy later). So far, so good! :)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Voyage of the Vikings by Paul McCusker and Marianne Hering

Voyage with the Vikings (AIO Imagination Station Books Book 1) by Paul McCusker and Marianne Hering

My Thoughts:

We're officially homeschooling Grasshopper(5, almost 6) now, and I'm looking for gentle ways to add history lessons into his days. (We're mainly using History Stories for Children, as a Charlotte Mason recommendation, but I'd like to teach/learn about other people/places/time periods, too.) I've read one of the books in the Imagination Station series in the past, and I thought I remembered it having a little history lesson intertwined in the story. Since I had access to the first 3 books, and they count for the Summer Reading Program, I decided to test them out, and see if it looked like something Grasshopper could handle. (You should be seeing the next 2 books flow through my blog in the next couple of days.)

I'm actually pretty thrilled that I think he will enjoy them now. They are full of action and there is a little mini lesson in history. Really, it just touches on the person/place, but I think it will make a wonderful introduction for a deeper study. As you would guess, in Voyage of the Vikings, we are transported through time to Greeenland, and meet Erik the Red and Leif Eriksson. This is a very short read for young readers, so there isn't really anything touched on in depth, but again, it's a nice introduction to the world of Vikings.

Overall, I'm excited to try these out with Grasshopper! I just checked and my local library doesn't have them, so we may have to buy a book a month. :D (My copies were from my kindle/PDF, and I prefer real paper copies when reading to the boys.)

Austenland by Shannon Hale

Austenland by Shannon Hale

My Rating: 2.5/5 stars

My Thoughts:

Since August is the month dedicated to reading Jane Austen(both original and "retellings"), I decided to go ahead and put Austenland on my reading list. I haven't allowed myself to watch the movie until I read the book, and I really want to watch the movie! Plus, I've enjoyed a few of Hale's other books(Book of a Thousand Days, Princess Academy and Goose Girl).

I know a lot of people that have loved this book, so I almost hate to admit how much I didn't like it. At first, I really did enjoy it! (I actually read it pretty quickly!) The more and more I read, though, the more I got annoyed. The longer I spent away from the book after finishing, the more I disliked it.

I don't want to say that I didn't like Jane. I know people in real life that have some of her ways, and I like them just fine. I didn't like her ways, though! She seemed to jump at any guy that looked at her fondly. I *should* have been happy with the ending, but I wasn't. I just felt sorry for a certain person, because Jane was so wishy-washy concerning her men. I was just shaking my head at some of her decisions. (which is really hypocritical of me, considering how wishy-washy I am with my decisions, though not the ones that truly matter!)

Also, though not the reason for my dislike(at least completely), the book was much less innocent than I thought it would be. There's passionate kissing, profanity(though it doesn't pass into the high category), and lots of "not innocent" things, though NO sex. I know some people roll their eyes at me for this kind of stuff, or even get angry in the secular world(I'm NOT judging you!), but I just thought it would be sweeter. As an adult read, I'd definitely still label it as a clean read, though.

I DO still plan on watching the movie, though I don't know when. Trying to rent a movie is so "iffy" for us. :S

I've saw the movie cover, and I know that Jennifer Coolidge plays a part. Though not an actress one would think I'd like, I simply love her as an actress! If it's family friendly at all, and she's in it, I want to watch it. I immediately figured out who she plays in the movie while reading the book. They could NOT have done a better job picking an actress for the part of Miss Charming. To see her part in the movie has me more excited than anything else.

So, overall I was disappointed, but this is such a well-loved book, I still recommend you give it a shot!

*Thanks to my local library for lending me an e-copy of this book to read!