Author Archives: charlesprogers
Bedtime Stories: The Search for Wondla
Post by Mark T. Locker.
The Search for Wondla by Tony DiTerlizzi.
I have seen this middle reader-level book floating around for a few years but hadn’t picked it up until recently. I had thought that it was going to be some kind of fantasy novel. I made this judgment based on the fact that the author co-wrote the Spiderwick Chronicles with Holly Black. Now I know more about Holly Black, I think she is the one behind the fantastical elements of those books. So I was a little surprised when I began reading and it was readily apparent that I was reading more of a sci-fi/fantasy novel. That didn’t really put me off, however. It’s a fun and engaging read nonetheless.
Eva Nine is twelve years old and has never seen the outside world, not to mention another human being. She has been raised and trained in an underground facility by a caretaker robot named, somewhat ridiculously, Muthr, which stands for Multi-utility task help robot. You can imagine, she also takes on a maternal persona. But one day, blasts from above alert them to someone-or something-is attacking and breaching the entrance. Eva Nine is forced to flee, finally putting all her training to use. Only, there’s a problem. She has been trained to survive on Earth and as far as all her fancy gadgets can tell her, nothing she encounters is Earthling. The trees are carnivorous, the birds have too many wings. Some thing are similar to Earth creatures, but on a vastly different scale. One of her first companions she meets appears to be what is known as a tardigrade, which is a microscopic water creature, but this one is enormous and communicates with her through psychic wavelengths. With her giant friend (she nicknames him “Otto”) and a fishlike humanoid named Rovander Kitt, Eva Nine and Muthr head overland to try and find out what happened to Earth, and to all the Earthlings.
Filled with action, mystery, and a bright but stubborn heroine, The Search for Wondla is a great choice for older elementary age kids. And even better, there are two more books in the series!
Movies in Bed: Earth to Echo
Post by Mark T. Locker.
Here in the Pacific Northwest, we tend to crumple at the sight of a snowflake or a frosted window pane. Therefore, I was prepared to stay home when the first icy pellets hit my porch and the call came in that my son’s school was canceled. I still had work to do, but without any actual snow for him to play it, I was pressed to come up with activities to keep him entertained. By two o’clock in the afternoon, we were all feeling stretched so I suggested we find a movie to watch!
The moment the cover for Earth to Echo popped up on the screen, he knew that was the movie he wanted to see. He was not disappointed.
Earth to Echo is part E.T., part Cloverfield, part Goonies. Three adolescent boys are losing their homes to a freeway project. For their last night together, they decide to go on a big adventure. When their phones go all haywire, they realize, eventually, that they are suddenly showing them a map, guiding them to something out in the Nevada desert. Determined to record the whole event, they head out in the darkness on bikes, equipped with Go Pro cameras, spy cameras, smartphones. What they find is just the first piece of a puzzle that will lead them through deserts, danger, and strangers eager to get their hands on the little robotic alien nicknamed “Echo”.
This is a great fun and exciting movie for elementary age kids. Lots of action without any violence, and a satisfying, if bittersweet ending that will leave them pleased.
Tips and Tricks: 8 Tips to Get Your Best Night’s Sleep
Post by Tracy Kaler.
Everyone has trouble sleeping now and then, but if you find yourself battling insomnia regularly, try these tips to ensure you snooze for a full night.
1. Stick to a schedule.
Don’t be tempted to change your sleep schedule drastically. Try and get to bed at about the same time each night and awake about the same time each morning. You’ll thank yourself later.
2. Sleep in a dark room.
Bright lights can disrupt sleep, so be sure city lights or street lamps don’t shine in your windows. Install room-darkening shades or curtains if needed.
3. Keep the temperature comfortable.
That means not too hot and not too cold. A ceiling fan may be just the perfect accessory if your room tends to run warm. If you wake up cold, add an extra blanket or sleep in down.
4. Watch what you eat.
Try to avoid eating too late –– this means make your last meal at least three hours before bedtime. Avoid greasy, fatty meals, which take longer to digest and could make falling asleep more difficult.
5. Cut back on alcohol.
Alcohol will relax you, but too many cocktails will interrupt sleep. Have a glass or two of wine with your dinner and say no to after-dinner drinks.
6. Skip the caffeine.
A cup of coffee in the morning shouldn’t affect your ability to fall asleep in the evening, but any caffeine past noon could be keeping you awake at night. Try decaf.
Exercise at least 20 minutes per day. Even a walk or light jog can make a difference in relaxing you when it’s time to turn in. Avoid exercise late at night.
8. Have a bedtime ritual.
Take a warm shower. Read. Listen to soothing music. Wash your face and brush your teeth. Find whatever works for you, and do it each and every evening before you hit the hay.
Breakfast in Bed – Pumpkin Pie Waffles
by Alison Hein.
Pumpkin is a harvest food. It’s not right to partake of pumpkin outside of autumn (it would be like eating gazpacho in winter, or a thick stew in summer). Savory pumpkin is wonderful. I like to chop and clean a fresh pumpkin, drizzle it with oil and spices, and roast it in a hot oven for an evening side dish. But sweet pumpkin is even more wonderful. Cooked, puréed, blended with eggs and a medley of pie spice, pumpkin rises to its flavorful peak. And since it’s November (and I shouldn’t have pie for breakfast), I’ve transformed waffles with sweet pumpkin and luxurious spice.
The trickiest thing about making waffles is pouring the proper amount of batter into the iron. Too much, and the gooey batter oozes from the edges and drips down the sides. Too little, and the puny waffles will be tough, and the rim of latticework ruined. With practice, you will be able to get it just right for your particular waffle iron and recipe. When you experiment with new batters, however, you may find yourself back at square one. For me it’s an easy decision – go for the heavy pour, then trim the waffles and scrub the iron when finished.
So blend; pour; trim; slosh with real maple syrup. Then partake of a harvest pumpkin breakfast in bed just as wonderful as pie.
2 cups flour
¼ cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1½ cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup vegetable oil, or butter, melted and slightly cooled
½ cup pumpkin purée (fresh or canned)
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves in large bowl. In separate bowl, add milk, eggs and vanilla and beat until frothy. Pour oil or melted butter into liquid mixture and stir well. Using a wooden spoon or hand mixer, gradually add liquid mixture to dry ingredients until batter is smooth. Stir in pumpkin purée.
Spray waffle iron with cooking spray and heat to high. Pour ½ cup to ¾ cup batter into center of iron, making sure you have enough batter to evenly spread across the surface of your waffle iron. Cook until golden brown and crisp and waffle pulls away easily from iron, about 5 – 7 minutes. Serve warm with melted butter and maple syrup.
Makes approximately 5 waffles.
Bedtime Stories: Sam and Dave Dig a Hole
Post by Mark T. Locker
Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett. Illustrated by Jon Klassen.
My son, at six point three years old, is almost too old for picture books now. While it’s a shame that we won’t have this format to enjoy together forever, it certainly won’t stop me from seeking out new and wonderful picture-heavy reading material for my own enjoyment and for the enrichment of you, the readers. Especially now that Jon Klassen and Mac Barnett have found each other, why would anyone move away from picture books? There can be nothing but great things coming from these two for a long time to come. And any time Adam Rex wants to fill in for Jon Klassen, that’s okay too.
Sam and Dave Dig a Hole is a charming and painful story. Two boys decide to dig down in the yard to see what kinds of treasures they can find. Without giving too much away, let’s just say that the cross-sections of the deep, winding hole they dig show us just how close they come to finding some remarkable treasures. The drawings are wonderful and make the story what it it. Mac Barnett’s touch for subtle humor definitely helps drive this story too. Truly a great collaborative work between some of children’s literature’s great new voices.