Goodnight Good

This hilarious parody of Goodnight Moon is a favorite in our house.

Many parents know the joy—and I use joy in both a literal sense as well as a sarcastic one, as it is both—of reading Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown over and over and over again to their little ones. My daughter and I have it memorized, as do, I am sure, hundreds of other children and their parents, if not thousands. The classic story is beautiful, as well as a wonderful way to end the day, with its peaceful, lulling words and soft story. We like to end it with a whisper, which is pretty much perfect.

The book has had a few parodies made over the years, and though it may not be as funny as Go the F*** to Sleep is to some parents, Goodnight Goon: A Petrifying Parody has to be my favorite childhood book parody. When my daughter and I first read it, I thought we would die from a giggle fit; it’s that funny, especially when you know Goodnight Moon so well.

For example, instead of three little bears sitting in chairs and the cow jumping over the moon pictures, there are pictures of three little mummies rubbing their tummies, as well as a picture of Martians landing on the moon! Instead of an old lady whispering “Hush,” there’s a an old werewolf hollering, “Boo!” Fans will adore these Halloween-y references.

But perhaps the funniest thing about Michael Rex’s parody is that its pace, instead of slowly dwindling to the closing of the day, instead escalates as the room becomes sheer chaos. A goon enters the room and makes a mess, but the black lagoon (and the monster within it) in the room also eats much of the room itself, from the paintings to the box with claws sticking out of it and more. A vampire, a witch, ghosts, and other creatures zip around the room, trying to find their belongings or to just be there for some unknown reason, which my daughter finds hilarious. As the little kid monster tells them goodnight, it seems like it’s a party going on in his room rather than bedtime.

The story ends with a monster—the goon—going under the bed and the narrator wishing a goodnight to monsters everywhere, which, again, is pretty perfect, given the whole “monster under the bed” scenario. If your kids love monsters and Halloween, even if they’re not fans of the original book they are sure to have some fun with this one!

The Sisters Grimm: The Council of Mirrors

Fans should be happy—and sad.

Having just finished the final book in the Sisters Grimm series, I can definitely say that Michael Buckley will make his fans happy with this last book. That said, The Council of Mirrors is also disappointing in a couple of ways—the first and most obvious one being that the series is actually over. I’m sure other fans can attest to how much fun this book series was to enjoy; I know I’ll miss experiencing each book for the first time yet again, though I’m in the process of purchasing them to have permanently in our home.

Many of the questions that you have will be answered in this book, and there are fine battle scenes to be had—as well as plenty of Sabrina, Daphne, and Puck goodness. That said, I couldn’t help but feel like we didn’t get to know any one character much here—though, if you’ve read the whole series, you certainly had enough to go on there. I was hoping to get to know the mirrors a bit more (per the title), and though the battles were interesting and creative enough, they also didn’t feel as live and pulse-pounding as many other adventures that the sisters have gone through. Of course, many of those books did not include violent deaths; this book did, and I think Buckley was trying hard to make them too scary for the children who read it (which I also think worked well).

I also didn’t like the implication throughout the book that the sisters have had to be rescued by Puck over and over again—which largely came from him, of course, which you have to take with a grain of salt!—because they have been courageous and bright in each book themselves.

Something else to expect in this book is a big chunk of time between its urgent resolution and its actual conclusion, which is something I had a problem with in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as well. It’s not actually problematic, mind you; it just leaves you feeling so frustrated, yearning for more books and adventures for the time gap in between. And while Rowling has already stated that she’s finished the adventures of her trio, one can’t help but wish that Buckley might take up the pen again for more stories featuring his…

Council of Mirrors is finally available in bookstores nationwide; go check it out and discover if Sabrina and Daphne Grimm meet the fate that you think they should. I really don’t think you’ll be disappointed, except for the fact that—sigh—it’s over.

The Best Vacation Ever

I have never used a Math Start book, which is a volume from Scholastic that helps to teach mathematical concepts in a fun and engaging way. I had actually never even heard of them until I ran across this one for sale for a mere dime at our library’s bookstore. So I purchased The Best Vacation Ever by Stuart J. Murphy, which is illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott, and decided to see if it would be a good fit for my daughter, who often enjoys math activities.

It was actually a very simple book that was easy to use in helping my daughter learn about collecting and charting data. Last summer we did a project in which we interviewed everyone we know to see what his or her favorite flavor of ice cream was (I learned to not include a miscellaneous category and instead give people options—your chart will simply go on forever if you openly ask people, “Which flavor of ice cream is your favorite?” We received some answers that my kiddo just found confusing!), and this could have really come in handy then.

This book deals with a busy family attempting to decide where their best vacation spot might be. Each has his or her own unique schedule, likes and dislikes, and various needs, as families do. The daughter in the family makes a chart depicting each family member’s needs and comes to a quick conclusion—the best vacation spot for her family is in her own backyard! Which is the answer, I am afraid, that most families will come up with this year anyway given the rising costs in fuel…

I really liked this book; its illustrations were simple and round, very friendly for kids to enjoy. The text was even simpler, which was my biggest surprise; in most math skills books that we’ve checked out, the text is heavy and dull, making us reluctant to even finish it in the first place. So such books like this one, I think, would work well for many children.

Once you read the book you could make your own chart—whether it depicts favorite things, vacation spots, ice cream, or whatever is up to you—and help your child interpret it. We didn’t use a ruler in making ours, but that could also be a good activity to help your child learn how to use one and make equal markings.

Unplugged Play

I follow several amazing parenting and craft blogs, and one of my favorites is called Let’s Explore. It’s a blog kept by a homeschooling mom (she also keeps a great homeschooling blog) of two, and she always comes up with the most creative projects and fun things to do. Recently she recommended a book called Unplugged Play: No Batteries. No Plugs. Pure Fun. I was so excited to learn that my library carried a copy and checked it out immediately.

Holy cow, is this book full of even more fun projects, experiments, games, and other activities to do! It’s based, obviously, on the premise that our kids spend way too much time plugged in to various toys and gadgets, and that we need to help them reconnect with their own imaginations through open-ended play and nature activities. You’ll find both of these opportunities in the book, from outdoor scavenger hunts to carnival-type games you can do in your own bathtub, experiments on beach balls and pencils, hopping games, and more!

The book boasts over 700 games and activities to do for kids ages one to ten years, and though they are organized by age group, many overlap. For example, I found several great ideas in the section for younger children that my six-year-old loves, such as homemade bowling pins and golf out of household objects, such as plastic bottles and flyswatters. There are more ideas than I’ll have time to do in the time it takes to check out the book, so I’m jotting all of the ones I like down in our lesson plan book during my daughter’s taekwondo lessons—a time in which I normally read or do puzzles anyway. No time lost, and plenty of activities gained!

Each activity is very simply explained and easy to follow. There is a brief introduction, along with a breakdown of how the game or activity can be used, how many children can do it together, and what ages it’s best used with. Then there is a list of materials, followed by usually brief instructions. It’s so simple that as I’ve added the activities to our lesson book, I’ve been able to reduce them to a few words to use later without needing much of the explanations themselves.

There aren’t many illustrations, but they really aren’t needed. Most of the activities are simple enough to understand without them. If you feel like your child is spending way too much time in front of the tube or attached to the controller, this book could definitely help you out.