Off the Bookshelf: The Magic School Bus

Last Friday was report card day and I couldn’t help noticing that the little girl’s grades in Science has consistently been the highest among all her other subjects. Back in preschool, she also received the Discovery Smart award twice. The little boy doesn’t have a Science subject yet, but like his sister, he also has an innate curiosity and a penchant for discovering how and why things work. It’s no wonder indeed that both of them LOVE the Magic School Bus!

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These Magic School Bus books have been read many times over.  Don’t ask me how many times coz I’ve lost count already.  I’ve also lost count of the many questions the kids have asked wanting to know more about Australia, or what animals eat, or the monarch butterfly, and so on and so forth.  They’ve read the books so many times that it seems they know most of the stories and characters by heart. Ask them what The Friz’s first name is and they’ll tell you in a second. They are also familiar with the kids in the Friz’s class and can describe them as if they were their real classmates.

Aside from the making scientific facts easier to understand by integrating them into humorous stories, I also love how each book shares “reports” or assignments written by Ms. Frizzle’s students.  These notes help encourage my little ones to write on their journals too.

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Since it was first published in the late 1980s, The Magic School Bus has since been adapted into a television series and published with early readers and chapter books versions.

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Aside from reading the books, the kids also love watching the TV series. It’s not shown on television anymore but we were blessed to have been given by Tita Gen three VCDs from the Magic School Bus TV series.

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The Magic School Bus is highly recommended for school age children. My kids started reading them at 4 years old and still get very excited whenever they are given a new title. This book and television series is indeed a great way to foster children’s love for Science.

Three More Adarna Books in Filipino-English

Made a quick run to the bookstore yesterday for the little girl’s illustration board which she needed to bring to school today.  Of course, no trip to the bookstore would be complete without some new books.  Since I want to improve their skills in Pagbasa, I bought three more Adarna books in 2 languages.

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I’ve always liked Adarna books because most – if not all – of them relate Filipino values and good character with engaging stories.  What I love about this new set of Adarna books is that they also integrate Math and Science concepts in the stories.  They would make great supplements to Math lessons in counting and days of the week or Science lessons in water cycle and water forms.

All three books come in two languages which makes for great practice in reading both in Filipino and in English.  Since both my kids are proficient readers in English,  I read the books to them in Filipino then they read the English translation by themselves.  I’ll be reading more stories in Filipino to my two bulilits to help develop their skills in Pagbasa at Pag-unawa.  Thankfully, there’s plenty of Adarna books available in our fave bookstores.

Munting Patak-Ulan

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Just yesterday morning I asked my little boy if he knew where rain comes from.  So when I saw this book on the shelf, I put it right into my shopping basket.  The story tells of how Little Raindrop and his siblings fall from the sky; help people, animals, and plants; and go back to their Mother Cloud.  This would also be a great supplement to an Araling Panlipunan lesson about forms of water or a Science lesson on the water cycle.  At the end of the story, there’s a page that explains the different forms of water and provides an example for each one.  Among the three new books, this was both kids’ first choice for bedtime reading.

Sampung Magkakaibigan

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More than providing a lesson in counting from 1 to 10 in Filipino, this book also shows children how one should behave and treat others.  The story revolves around Karlo who mistreats his nine classmates and ends up all by himself.  Although this is recommend for kids age 6 and above, this book would also be great for preschoolers who have just started going to school.  It’d be a great way to tell them about the different behaviors of children they would meet in school and to instruct them on how to deal with each one.

Ang Kamatis ni Peles

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Remember the story of the ant and the grasshopper?  This might very well be a sequel to that story.  In this book, the grasshopper Peles gets tired of wandering around and decides to change his fate by working as hard as Hugo the Ant.  Peles plants tomato seeds given by Hugo and patiently takes care of them and waits for them to sprout.  Kids learn the value of hardwork and patience through the story of Peles. If your child is learning about the days of the week in Filipino, this book would be a good supplement for his lessons.  There’s also an instruction for proper composting at the end of the story.

Off the Bookshelf: Horrid Henry’s Birthday Party

I never thought that I’d say this about a children’s book but Horrid Henry is off our bookshelf and is never going back on it. I don’t even want to give it to another child. It’s horrible, horrid, horrendous.

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The story starts with Henry being excited for his birthday and his parents dreading that same day. Throughout the story, we read about the horrible things Henry does to his family and everyone else.  I wouldn’t mind reading a book about a mischievous boy but this one does not end with any resolution or consequence for Henry’s actions.  He actually gets away with all his mischief.  It ends with a picture of Henry with an evil grin and the lines “But Henry didn’t care. They said that every year.” 🙁

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I’ve not allowed my kids to read this book as they are at a very impressionable age. They might think that it’s fine to do naughty things like Henry does. I wouldn’t have minded if the story ended with Horrid Henry learning the consequences of his actions but this story ended with his getting away with his naughtiness. Not really a very good example for very young kids.

Would I recommend this book to others?

No, no, and no!

Before I had time to publish this post, I spotted a girl reading a Horrid Henry book while waiting for her mom in a salon.  I couldn’t help asking her how she found the book and if she was a frequent reader of Horrid Henry. Horrid Henry Rocks is 9-yr-old Rachel’s first Horrid Henry book. The book consists of four different stories, and like the one I’ve read, Henry gets away with horrid behaviour in each one of them. I asked Rachel if she feels that she could also get away with mischief just like Henry, she said that she knows she won’t because the story was just fiction and that in real life, her mom wouldn’t ever let her get away with the things Henry does. When asked if she enjoyed reading the stories and if she would want to buy another Horrid Henry, she just said, “Maybe. I don’t know.”

Although the nine-year-old girl was able to distinguish fiction from real life and was not in any way encouraged to imitate Henry’s ill-behaviour, I’d still keep this book away from our bookshelves.

Off the Bookshelf: A Roald Dahl Summer

How did you fare with your summer book list?  We didn’t get to stick to our list but we at least got to finish several new titles.

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We started summer with The Magician’s Nephew, the first book in the Chronicles of Narnia, with the intention of finishing all the seven CS Lewis books by the end of summer. However, halfway through second book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the kids saw the movie Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on television. This prompted Jade to re-read the book which she had already finished reading (from cover to cover all by herself! yey!) last February. After that, she read Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. By happenstance, we found three more Roald Dahl books in the thrift shop near our home. The Magic Finger, Matilda, and The BFG were added to our collection. Then my beautiful BFF Tita Gen bought her two more books – The Witches and James and the Giant Peach. That made seven Roald Dahls!

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Roald Dahl Books In a Nutshell

Most of Roald Dahls’ books are riddled with humorous poems and silly words that make children giggle. Most of his works for children are also told in a child’s point of view which makes it easy for young kids to relate to the story. However, the stories also often contain gruesome events and black humor so it’s best to read this along with your child or at least have a discussion after each chapter. The main characters in his stories are often children of ill circumstances. James, Sophie, and the little boy in The Witches were all orphans with two of them losing their parents in gruesome accidents. Matilda had crooks for parents. Charlie Bucket had his entire family with him but they were destitute.

Notwithstanding the grotesque and macabre aspects of his stories, Dahl leaves his readers with life lessons that even young readers could understand. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory shows them the consequences of being a glutton, a spoiled brat, and a television rat. It also shows how the humble and good-hearted are rewarded. In the BFG, we see how the supposedly weak ones are able to use their wits to stop the giants from eating “human beans”. We also see how the BFG improves his English once given a chance to learn it properly.

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Little Girl’s Two Cents on Roald Dahl

Has Jade read all of them? Sort of. She’s read four of the books and skimmed through the other three so she does know all the stories. Oftentimes, she’d go through one of the books and read the parts she skipped.

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Does she like them? Oh yes! She says Roald Dahl writes really well and tells very funny stories. She didn’t like The Witches though and says she’d “rather forget all about the story and erase it from memory” (Yes, she does talk like that!). Among the seven books, her top three faves are The BFG, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Matilda. She’s also requesting for copies of The Twits and The Fantastic Mr. Fox. So kind-hearted titas and titos, please keep the two titles in mind for her coming birthday.  🙂  Oh, and we wouldn’t mind getting some EB White books as well.

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Off the Bookshelf: Soupy Saturdays with The Pain and The Great One

Do you have children who never seem to get along with each other? Who seem to have mastered the art of war, uhm, getting on each other’s nerves? If there’s one parenting issue that transcends time, it has got to be sibling rivalry.  All families with multiple children deal with it in varying degrees. My parents did. Now, my husband and I are dealing with it.  It wouldn’t be a surprise that many can relate to Judy Blume’s The Great One and The Pain.

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Meet the Great One and the Pain

Abigail and Jake are siblings who both feel that their parents love the other more than themselves.  Abigail thinks of her brother as “the Pain” who’s always bothersome and who she wants to have nothing to do with.  Jake, on the other hand, thinks his sister is “the Great One” who always seems to do everything right in their parents’ eyes.   In the book, we are able to take a peek into the mind of each sibling with their alternate narratives.   No matter how different their views are or how much they think they “dislike” each other, we are able to see that they really do care for each other.

Soupy Saturdays

Soupy Saturdays is the first among a series of books about the Great One and the Pain.  In Soupy Saturdays, we read about several stories that all take place on Saturdays.  From a failed birthday party to a trip out of town, we also find out how they conquer Jake’s fear of Mr. Soupy the haircutter and Abigail’s fear of riding the bike.  Like all books in the series, this one ends with Fluzzy the cat’s narrative.

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What My Kids Say

Jakei wasn’t interested in reading the book yet. He’s barely five years old so that’s quite understandable.  Jade says she likes the book but Roald Dahl still remains her favorite.  She also thinks that Abigail and Jake are similar to her and Jakei (which is quite true as they are a bit of a know-it-all older sis and a mischievous younger bro).  However, Jade says she like Jake’s character more because “he chews on Bruno’s ear”.  Asked if she would recommend it to other kids, she just said “Yes, because it’s funny.”

As with most of our books, we got our copy on sale.  She still has a couple of Roald Dahl and CS Lewis books to read but we will still be on a lookout for the other books about The Great One and The Pain. 🙂