Book Review: Little Lena and the Big Table

Today I bring to you a story that so many children can relate to. Author PJ McIlvaine brilliantly uncovered a topic felt by so many little ones, including my own.

Presenting LITTLE LENA AND THE BIG TABLE

Genre: Picture Book

Publisher: Big Belly Books

Author: Pj McIlvaine

Illustrator: Leila Nabih

Ages: 3-8

Synopsis: Little Lena has her heart set to sit at the big table. But every year her family tells her she’s just not big enough. Little Lena is determined to show everyone how big she is.

This book is full of heartfelt charm and it’s simple text along with the illustrations, paint the perfect picture of the lovely, but often chaotic atmosphere at family gatherings.

LITTLE LENA AND THE BIG TABLE is a great story to have on hand, especially before family events!

My children’s favorite part is when Lena discovers how boring the adult table really is. Ganny takes out her teeth, mom shows embarrassing photos, Uncle Ron spits when he speaks—lots of humor sure to make your child laugh.

You can purchase this picture book at your local bookstore or www.bigbellybookco.com

Happy Reading!

I received a free copy from the publisher to give my honest review. 

Book Review and Author Interview: Evelyn Bookless

Did you know that every year over 8-million metric tons of plastics enter our seas? That is equivalent to five plastic bags filled with trash for every foot of coastline in the world. That’s madness!

Author Evelyn Bookless felt the urge to write a story that engages and educates the children of our future in this fight against ocean pollution. She has found a way to take this crucial topic and make it kid-friendly!

The result? An awesome pollution-fighting superhero!

CAPTAIN GREEN AND THE PLASTIC SCENE couldn’t be more timely and needed! Let’s dive in and learn some more!

Title: CAPTAIN GREEN AND THE PLASTIC SCENE

Don’t you love the cover? I do!

Genre: Picture Book

Ages: 5-8

Author: Evelyn Bookless

Illustrator: Danny Deeptown

Publisher: Marshall Cavendish International

Synopsis:

Fresh out of Superhero School, Captain Green gets a call. Dolphin is tangled up in plastic, and there’s trouble for Seagull and Turtle too. When our brave superhero rushes off to help, he finds himself on a major mission: saving sea creatures from plastic. Using his incredible powers, Captain Green promises to save the day. But can he clean up this mess for good?

Now let’s meet the real superhero behind this entertaining, yet educational story about protecting our environment, author Evelyn Bookless!

Evelyn Bookless
Evelyn Bookless

It’s so great to have you!

Thanks for having me!

Can you share your inspiration behind CAPTAIN GREEN AND THE PLASTIC SCENE?

I was inspired to write Captain Green and the Plastic Scene while on holiday in Indonesia several years ago. I was saddened by the huge amount of plastic that had washed up on the beach not too far from our hotel. Such an incredibly beautiful place was destroyed by our actions. I thought, this pesky problem needs a superhero, and Captain Green was born! I immediately began researching and writing the story with the goal of engaging children, in a fun way, in the fight against ocean pollution.

You’ve taken a very serious subject and found a way to make it easier for children to understand. What was that process like?

Thank you! I adore animals and nature and when I began to learn more and more about the way plastic is polluting our oceans and hurting sea creatures, I wanted to shine a light on the problem while, most importantly, telling a story that children would enjoy and connect with. I watched documentaries, read widely and talked to a marine biologist to learn as much as I could. Then I chose three animals to include and studied their habits and habitats.

It was important for me to not overwhelm children but show them some ways that they can make a difference. The story ends positively with Captain Green reminding us that “you don’t need superpowers to save our seas, it just takes a superhuman.”

What is something you would like your readers to take away from this story?

That if we all make some small changes in our daily lives, we can make a big difference to ocean pollution and the well-being of our sea creatures. It’s not too late!

When writing CAPTAIN GREEN AND THE PLASTIC SCENE, did you get to work directly with illustrator Danny Deeptown? How did you determine the superhero look for Captain Green?

I did get to work closely with Danny Deeptown and it was a fantastic experience. I was thrilled when he came on board to illustrate the book. He has brought so much emotion, life and action to the pictures.

Danny felt that it was important to get Captain Green’s innocence across so that all children can relate to him, or even better, want to be like him. Captain Green loves nature and does his best to protect the planet. He shows everyone ways that they can help save our seas and empowers us all to do our bit.

I loved all of Danny’s initial character sketches for Captain Green and, in the end, he amalgamated ideas from two different drawings to come up with the final look. Children have responded so well to the character and I adore seeing pictures of little ones pretending to be Captain Green.

If you could share a piece of advice with writers, what would it be?

I would advise writers to read as many current picture books relating to their WIP as they can. I read countless books about adventures, superheroes, the environment, and animals to order to find suitable mentor texts that I could use.

What is coming up next for you?

I have some more school visits coming up soon. I love to visit schools to share the book and hear children’s bright ideas for saving our seas.

I am working on another Captain Green story about a different environmental topic and I hope it will be finished some time later in the year. I am playing around with different ways to tell the story.

I am working on a whole host of other stories that are much more silly so fingers crossed that I find a good home from them too.

Thank you for writing a kid-friendly, fun story with such a vital theme for children. Also, thank you for taking the time to answer some questions!

Thank you for having me on your blog, Katie!

Keep It Green!

I also wanted to include this informative short three-minute video from National Geographic that shares the detrimental effects plastic has on our oceans.

Check out these classroom activities regarding the impact of plastics for various age levels here and more resources here.

Children everywhere are already taking a stand against plastics entering our oceans. Check out the 4-minute video below.

You can preorder CAPTAIN GREEN AND THE PLASTIC SCENE on Amazon or purchase it now by visiting here or here.

To learn more about author Evelyn Bookless and see what she’s up to check out her website: https://www.evelynbookless.com/

Or visit her social media feeds:

Twitter: @evelynbookless

Instagram: @evelynbookless

Thanks for stopping by and happy reading!


How we Taught our Kids to Ride Without Training Wheels at age 3

“You’re doing it! Look at you go!” I shout at our three-year-old son as he pedals his wobbly bike without training wheels down the street.

Three? You may ask yourself. Yes, that’s right. It can be accomplished. Say goodbye to the training wheels, and self-doubt that your child will never learn how to ride a bike on their own. Sayonara to the oversized bike trailers and “hello” independence. Well, let’s not get too carried away, but that’s how it felt when my husband and I had our two children conquer this life skill by the age of three.

Want to know our secret? It’s called a balance bike. It was no secret to the many families that had already relied on this genius two-wheeled pedal-less bike. But when we discovered it? Our confused thoughts on how to teach this task were gloriously put to rest. It’s a secret no more. We wondered why this didn’t come with the instructional manual on “How to Raise Kids.” That’s right, we never received one when the stork dropped off our two bundles of joy at our front door-step. Isn’t that how it works? Let’s move on.

We first heard about this awesome alternative after a fellow dad kindly and willingly shared his brilliant secret with us. We did a little more research, and within no time, a lime green balance bike showed up on our doorstep. Contrary to the prior statement, it was not flown in by bird, just the friendly neighborhood delivery man.

How does it work?

Unlike ordinary bikes, it has no pedals, larger tires, and lower seating for a toddler to rest their feet on the ground. The child uses their legs and feet to push off the ground to gain speed. After some practice getting on the bike and scooting around, the child will gain confidence and naturally begin to lift their feet for longer periods of time. Mostly, they start to coast around. It’s all about balance.

“Bikes with training wheels tilt to the one side, creating a false sense of balance. In order to ride without the training wheels, a child must “unlearn” how to ride unbalanced and learn how to ride balanced,” according to an article on Two Wheeling Tots.

That sounds like a lot of extra work when some of the steps can be cut out. Basically, with the balance bike, the child will feel themselves tipping to one side and will learn to keep their body upright and support themselves.

When do they start using the balance bike?

Two Wheeling Tots says that kids can start as young as 18 months old, all the way up to 5-years-old. They use the bike for about two years before moving onto a traditional bike without training wheels.

How we did it

To get our daughter excited about the process, we let her pick out which color of bike she would like, along with a fitted helmet. Once the balance bike arrived,  I was shocked at how lightweight it felt. It was a plain bike frame with two wheels. No chains, no other contraptions for the child to get caught on, just pure simplicity.

We started on the driveway first teaching our 20-month old to tilt the bike to the side and lift her leg over the seat. While grasping the handlebars, she practiced sitting and focused on balancing herself. After the novelty of being able to just sit on her very first bike wore away, our daughter gained more confidence and began to push herself around. It went from a single push, to push, push, glide.

In no time, she was testing out the steering, slightly turning, then making larger circles. My husband and I were amazed at how natural the process was. Within a few months, we noticed she would lift her feet to coast along. By the age of three, we felt she was ready to try a bike with pedals.

Unsure of how the transition would look, we purchased a little bike from the second-hand store. We put our daughter on the traditional bike, held the back of the seat, showed her how to keep her feet on the pedals and walked with her as she rode. Eventually, we let go. She fell off but caught herself. We tried again, and within three attempts, she was riding down the sidewalk. It was incredible!

My son didn’t catch on quite as quickly. We thought he was ready, when he was not, so we gave the traditional bike a rest for a bit. He practiced balancing a little longer until he said he was prepared to try again. Within no time, he was pedaling on his own. He just wasn’t ready when we thought he was. It was up to him. That is a key factor in the whole system. The child knows when they are ready to learn and each child is different.

Would we do it again?

Yes! We feel it took away a lot of the guessing that comes along with trying to figure out how to teach this task.

We have since passed the balance bike on to our niece who’s loving this new experience and boost in confidence. If you’re interested, I encourage you to check out the balance bike and if you feel it’s a good fit for your child, give it a test ride.