when all the answers lead to too many questions (review)

img_3996Ironically, when I wanted to jot some notes about this book for my review, my pencil lead was broken. Pencils, and the search for them are exactly how Ava finds the most important writing implement of her life. As she is preparing for school and a math test, Ava finds a blue pencil in her junk drawer at home. She grabs it for her looming test not knowing that the pencil holds to answers to almost every question she might have. But even pencils with answers can’t last forever. As she overuses the pencil she wears down both the tip and the illusion that she will be able to always find the answer she needs. Librarians and people who love them will find this book a funny surprise.
Here’s my sketch review of All the Answers, a take off on sketchnotes. A  far more interesting book summary for both the writer and the reader if you ask me (or a blue pencil).
I can’t wait to booktalk this book and have students make a list of the questions they’d ask a pencil that knows all of the answers!

on wizards, shape shifting, and the smell of magic (review)

img_3948I feel sympathy for every author who wants to write a fantasy about wizards in the post Harry Potter world. Talk about living up to high expectations.  Your wizard fantasy most likely will not end up as a destination at Disneyland. And what about the fear of comparison for your poor developing characters? There will never be another Hermione, no matter how anyone tries.

Against my better judgement I am going to start out a review of The Evil Wizard Smallbone with a comparison or six… because our view of wizards in training has been influenced. I need to clear the magical air on how Nick and Harry differ. Not every wizard lives in a broom cupboard.

Now that we’ve established that, I can tell you why a Potterhead liked this story of an American wizard living in Stephen King’s neck of the woods.  Evil WS has great character development,  it makes us root for the protagonist in dangerous plot twists, and I love a book where local dialect gets a showcase. Ayuh.

Must read moments…
The magical bookshop makes recommendations to the young wizard in training based on his need and ability. Books come out based on requested spells or information (sometimes reluctantly). An invisible but helpful librarian? Maybe I will be reincarnated as a bookshop? Fascinating.

Books themselves do not tolerate sloppy studying, bad words, or cheating. The pages of these magical books go blank for Nick if he doesn’t toe the line. Pretty impressive student management.

As Nick learns about magic he identifies spells by scent. Not a new idea (especially for fans of The Alchemyst), but a nice way to keep the reader predicting what turn the story will take when Nick is on the scent of a spell.

Nick discovers where the previous apprentices are…and decides to rescue them.

If you love magic, hate bad guys and always wondered what would happen if you were turned into a rat, this is a great read for around 3rd grade and up. If you are stuck on the idea of wizards in training in scholarly situations only, this fun fantasy will attempt to knock you off your train..er..broom…er thestral.

10 reasons everyone should go to a legofest at least once

img_3753The Lego Brickfest was in town this weekend, and though I really hate traffic, paying at a parking garage, and dodging cars on busy city streets,  I went.  Though I am a curmudgeonly traveler, this was a can’t miss event.

Brickfest is a great opportunity to show your littles that they are never too old to create something cool with tiny pieces of plastic that really hurt when stepped on. We had a blast and I would recommend it as a fun family learning opportunity.

10 reasons to attend a festival o’ legos

10.  There will be a sea of bricks to sit in. Or perhaps you can be adult and allow your child to sit in the midst of it instead of you wading in. Either way, totally cool experience you cannot replicate. Unless you are Oprah or something. How many blue bricks are in there?


9. Geek networking. I talked shop with “lego instructors”. Yep, that’s a job. And they have all kinds of neat learning opportunities ready to teach all ages.

8. Build a lego car and RACE it. This could get all science-y with talk of velocity and streamlining, or you could just build the coolest car and not care if it wins.

7.  Everyone is pretty nice and they share. I don’t know if there were some competitive areas I missed but there were many places to build collaboratively and kids were very kind to each other. We did go at a down time instead of peak.

6. You do know those little lego kits are really hard to put together, right? For my way of thinking, if my kid wants to read those tedious directions and put together a lego speedboat he should get math credit or something.

5. Entertainment that involves eye-hand coordination, is indoors, and isn’t a contact sport. Those poor baseball moms who’ve been sitting outside for practices should be all over this.

4. Training for the lego challenges you are going to come up with.

3.  People who are crazy enough to make Lego masterpieces like a Van Gogh painting will display them. You can say you spent the weekend seeing “art” and sound very cultured!


2. Brickfest is so big you should strap on that fitbit and get those steps in!  Wear sneakers, carry a water bottle, and a bring a snack keep up your strength. Wait until you tally those steps, you will feel like a track star.

And the #1 Reason to hit the brickfest is…

Guaranteed nap for everyone.  (Except moms, you never get one, right?)img_3752-e1501451965818.jpg