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.

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. 🙂

My NBS Warehouse Sale Haul

I actually didn’t think I’d be able to go to the warehouse sale last week but I did! Thanks to my husband, I was able to go on Saturday AND on Sunday. The warehouse was dusty, crowded, and hot but I didn’t mind staying there for hours. It was book heaven for frugal moms like me. Imagine books going for as low as P5! If you’re lucky enough, you can find great books in mint condition being sold at 90% off. Just check out some of our fave finds:

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Did you notice that those were all children’s books? 🙂 The little boy was with me when I went to the sale on Saturday so it was mostly his pick. Each of those books cost only P5 – 50 pesos.  I went back on Sunday all by myself hoping to find some novels for me to read but still ended up with more children’s books. Although, I still did manage to score a handful of good novels for my sisters and me.

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Sunday being the last day of the sale, the warehouse was packed and the queue to the checkout counters was loooooooooooooong. I spent more than hour waiting in line! I’m not complaining though as I still got to browse books from the tables as we moved along the line. During the four hours I was there, I saw people who chose to leave when they saw the crowd and the long line. For me though, the huge discounts were well worth waiting an hour in line.

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We’re definitely looking forward to the next NBS Warehouse Sale! From my experience last week, I’d keep these in mind:

  • Wear rubber shoes or closed shoes with socks. The floor was just bare cement and my black sandals turned gray after walking around for hours.
  • Go on the first day of the sale – in the morning! Best to go when the sale first opens to grab the best buys. Plus, books are still well-organized during the first day. If you have kids, I suggest you go on the first day as well.
  • Eat before you start shopping. Expect to spend hours going through the stacks of books and another hour at the checkout lane. Good thing I had plenty of candies in my bag to ward off hunger pangs.
  • Forget the book list! I actually had a book list with me when I went to the sale but it was rendered useless. One, the books were not arranged in any particular order. Second, there was just too many shoppers (too many competition :P) that I just grabbed whatever the kids would love to read and was in good condition. I wasn’t even able to check what the little boy was putting in the basket anymore. Which is why we ended up with “a hundred” Batman books. 😛
  • Bring wet wipes and alcohol. You’d need them after you shop. Most books are dusty so expect to get a bit of dirt on your hands. There’s a washroom on the first floor but a pack of wet wipes and alcohol would still come handy.

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Jade in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory

Lookie!  Little girl just entered the world of Willy Wonka!

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Why did we choose Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for her first chapter book?  Well, aside from this Mama being an avid fan of Roald Dahl, she has seen the movie based on that book several times this month and totally loves it.   I also think that the characters in the books would be a great springboard to discuss behaviors that are unacceptable.

She’s in Chapter 10 but would probably have read more had I not limited her reading time.  The book is suggested for ages 8 up and she’s only five years old. Instead of allowing her to read from cover to cover, I ask her to read only two to three chapters a day.  Each chapter is followed by a short comprehension check and a brief discussion. This way, I’m also able to check if she really does understand what she’s reading or if she’s merely reading the words.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is among the recommended books for school age children.  This book is always among top 100 children’s books list so do add this to your kids’ must-read book list.

Next on our list is Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator and The BFG.  Then perhaps, some E.B. White books after that.