Book Review:  April Fool, Phyllis!
by Susanna Leonard Hill
published by Holiday House, 2011

It’s April Fool’s Day, and Phyllis Groundhog, “Weather Prophet Extraordinaire”, senses a blizzard is making its way to Punxsutawney. However, her family members think she’s just playing an April Fool’s joke. A blizzard will ruin their Spring Treasure Hunt. Ignoring her warning, the youngsters start on the treasure hunt, finding three clues. When the blizzard arrives, can Phyllis bring them to safety?

This book has so many levels or themes for teachers and parents to discuss. Learning about the origins of maple syrup and how its harvested is important to understanding the sap line in the book. My kids watched a couple of You Tube videos about maple tree farms. Phyllis is also an expert on weather forecasting. Another great science topic! Susanna’s author note at the end of the story tells the history of April Fool’s Day and other countries’ similar celebration. Children will fall in love with the cuddly groundhog that Jeffrey Ebbeler has brought to life with his beautiful paintings.

Activities to do with April Fool, Phyllis:

1. Write April Fool’s jokes.
2. Locate Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania and read about Groundhog Day.
3. Graph the weather in your area and write a weekly forecast.
4. Watch a video or read about how maple syrup is harvested from the trees. Write a how-to paragraph. Younger children could illustrate the process.
5. How bad can a blizzard be? Discuss blizzard conditions.
6. Make a treasure hunt with clues.
7. Eat pancakes with maple syrup or find maple candy.
8. Visit the author’s web site for more activities and information.

Pretty soon, a groundhog from New York will be visiting us in Korea! Phyllis from April Fool, Phyllis, a picture book written by a fellow writer Susanna Leonard Hill. Right now Phyllis is traveling the world through the United States and Europe, heading down to New Zealand before coming to us in Korea. Please stop back in the coming week or two to see how Phyllis enjoys Asia. I wonder what the weather forecast will be when she arrives.

For now, here are some April Fool activities to do while we wait for this great book!

1. Make a list of April Fool jokes to play on family and friends.

2. has some activities here.

3. Family Fun has some pranks listed here.

4. History of April Fool’s Day is here.

Book Review: Fantastic Flight by Barbara Bockman, Published by Guardian Angel, 2011

This is an adorable picture book by my fellow writer. Fantastic Flight is available in print and e-book versions. I purchased the e-book for my son since we’re out of the country.

Jessica isn’t too happy to stay with her grandparents for a whole week, but Grandpa has a surprise—a fantastic outing! Living by the beach has its perks, lots of sights and activities to do. A helium balloon lifts Jessica and Grandpa above Cloud 9 on a whirl of adventure. They meet many interesting characters before landing in one last fun place for kids.

Grandparents and grandchildren will love this story, with its colorful illustrations. Below are some activities your child could do with this book.

1. Research monarch migrations. Where could this monarch be heading?

2. Write a story about a fantastic outing with their own grandparent.

3. Rewrite a different ending. Before landing, what other creature could Jessica and Grandpa encounter?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tonight we made pinecone turkeys from the Family Fun web site. See the link below for directions.

Family Fun Tiny Toms

Happy Autumn!

Here’s a fun activity to do and incorporate some creative writing.

What you Need:  a tree leaf, paint, paper, pen, scissors, paint brush, 1 piece of construction paper

Fall Leaf Prints

1. Collect a leaf from a tree.

2. Paint the back of the leaf with a fall color. We only painted halfway down the stem in order to have a dry handle.

3. Set it on the paper, and hold it down. Lift it carefully. Paint the leaf for each print. We were trying to make a wreath.

4. Let it dry. Meanwhile, have your child describe autumn.

5. When dry, write a poem in the middle of the wreath. Cut around the leaves. Frame it with another piece of colored construction paper.



Note: We couldn’t find orange tissue paper here in Korea, and so my six-year-old son colored some thin white paper. This was a fun project to do together!

What You Need:  balloon, flour, water, newspaper, glue, whisk, bowl, orange and green paint, paint brush, scissors, orange tissue paper, candy, string or ribbon, masking tape, black construction paper

What You Do:

1. Blow up a balloon.

2. Cut a newspaper page into long strips 2 inches wide.

3. Make the paste:  Mix two cups of flour with one cup of water in a bowl. Whisk it until smooth.

4. Set your balloon in a holder like a tall plastic bowl. Dip the strips in the paste one at a time. If there’s too much paste on the strip, remove it with your fingers. Add the strip to the balloon, going around and laying the strips next to each other. Cover the whole balloon. Do not cover the top of the balloon (where the mouth piece is) Cover the balloon with three layers of strips.

5. Let it dry completely, might take 24 hours.

6. Twist a piece of newspaper into a stem. Attach the stem using masking tape.

7. Turn your balloon upside down and paint it orange. Paint the stem green. Let it dry.

8. Cut a piece of tissue paper into thins strips about 1 1/2 inches wide. On one side of each strip, make a fringe at every inch.

9. Pour glue onto a bowl or plate. Start with a small tissue paper strip about 2 inches long and glue it to the bottom of the balloon in the middle. Then with the fringe-side up, glue strips around the balloon, around the strip you just added. Make each strip overlap the previous one so that the balloon won’t show through. Cover all the way to the balloon mouthpiece.

10. With scissors, cut the balloon top. Take out the balloon. Let piñata dry.

11. Cut out face shapes from black construction paper. Glue them on the pumpkin for a jack-o-lantern.

12. With scissors, cut a slit on both sides of the top. Run a ribbon through for hanging the piñata. Fill the piñata pumpkin with candy and other goodies.

Happy Harvest Time or Happy Halloween!

The past two weeks my daughter has been studying U.S. geography, memorizing the fifty states! She learns five states each day.

Here are a few resources to use.

Fifty states online quiz…do you know where each state is located?

States’ Symbols Information…click on the state to see the symbols

States’ capitols games 


Interrupting ChickenBook Review:  Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein,
Published by Candlewick, 2010

It’s bedtime and Father almost forgets the most important part—a bedtime story. He asks Chicken not to interrupt again. He reads three classic stories, and each time she gets so excited that she interrupts with a new ending to avoid something bad happening to the main character. When Father runs out of stories, he asks Chicken to tell one. Who will interrupt her?

Children will love the humor and comic-like quips as well as reference to three classics, such as Little Red Riding Hood. Interrupting Chicken won a 2011 Caldecott Honor Medal.

How to use this book:

1. Use this book to teach about manners, that of not interrupting.
2. Use this book as a reminder to young children not to interrupt the teacher’s story, but to raise their hands or wait until the end to comment and ask questions.
3. Have the children write a letter to Chicken explaining about not interrupting and how to listen politely.
4. Have the children list other classic stories that Chicken might want to read. Which parts might she interrupt or not like?
5. If your children don’t recognize the three classics within the book, check them out and explore.
6. Write a short story for Chicken to read to her father.

Miss Lina's BallerinasBook Review:  Miss Lina’s Ballerinas, By Grace Maccarone
Published by Feiwel and Friends, 2010

Here’s a charming, rhyming ballerina book that takes place in the town of Messina. Eight girls whose names all end with -ina dance perfectly together in 4 lines of 2. However, havoc takes place when a new girl named Regina registers. How can they have organized dance with nine girls?

This story reminds me of the “Madeline” books. Very simple, soft illustrations enhance the ballet theme. I like that ballet terms are used within the book with a glossary in the back. Every ballerina will like reading this.

1. Explore the French ballet terms. Find an accompanying illustration or look each word up on You Tube for a demonstration.
2. Make a list of all the rhymes for -ina.
3. Demonstrate multiplication. In the book the ballerinas first stood in 4 lines of 2. Draw this and write the multiplication facts. Illustrate the multiplication fact for the new line up. What if another student registered? How could you organize a line-up for 10 ballerinas?


Have a New Kid by Friday: How to Change Your Child's Attitude, Behavior and Character in 5 Days Book Review:  Have a New Kid by Friday by Dr. Kevin Leman
Revell, 2008

Got a rebellious child? a messy child? defiant? lazy? whiny? greedy? selfish? Then this book is for you!!

I had always seen this book in the stores but never read it until now. I purchased the e-book version and loved it! My 8 1/2 year old daughter really did change within five days. She’s not perfect, but big issues have disappeared! And I’m working with my 5 1/2 year old son. His changes aren’t so drastic as he has smaller issues. And like Dr. Leman said, I can walk around with a smile on my face and less stress!

I don’t want to give away his tips and tricks because that would spoil the book for you. So I’m recommending this book for those of you who want to have a better disciplined child or classroom. Most of it is just basic common sense, but sometimes we adults forget or have our children controlling us! haha

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