Tuesday, June 30

Summer Reading List for Animal Lovers #Kids #MiddleSchool #SummerReading

My kiddos love to read and, along with most of their friends, they also love animals. This is our list of both tried and true books featuring furry friends along with books that are on our summer reading list. Each has been previewed by at least one of us or has been researched thoroughly and is great for 4th - 8th graders. We hope your kiddos will enjoy our finds and that their summers and yours will be more memorable because of them! 

The Tale of Despereaux

by Kate DiCamillo

One of my favorite books in the entire world! Yes, one of my favorite books—though my kids love it, too. If you didn't enjoy the movie, don't let that deter you. If you did enjoy it, the book is a gazillion times better! The Tale of Despereaux is a Newbery Medal award winner and tells the interwoven stories of three main characters. It is a tale of Despereaux Tilling, a small mouse who doesn't behave like an ordinary mouse. Despereaux likes to read stories and falls in love with a princess named Pea. The Mouse Council banishes Despereaux to a dark dungeon for breaking the mouse rules of conduct. It is a tale of Chiaroscuro, a rat who lives in the darkness of dungeon but has an unusual interest in light. It is also a tale of Miggery Sow, an abused and slow-witted servant girl who longs to be a princess. After discovering the rat's plot to kidnap the princess, Despereaux bravely comes to the rescue. With a well-paced story and memorable protagonists, it is also a great chapter book to read aloud. 

The Cricket in Times Square

by George Selden

The Cricket in Times Square is a charming animal fantasy book about Chester Cricket's adventure in New York City. At the start of this classic children' book, the country cricket arrives at the Times Square subway station by accident. Mario Bellini, whose parents own a newsstand, finds him and lets him stay in the newsstand. The cricket goes on to make friends with the boy, Tucker Mouse and Harry Cat. 

The Incredible Journey

by Sheila Burnford

The Incredible Journey is a classic animal adventure book. Three animals--a Siamese cat, a bull terrier, and a Labrador retriever-- make an incredible journey through the Canadian wilderness in search of their family and their home. The pets face hardship, starvation and wild animals on their adventurous journey. The last chapter, in which they find their owners, is very moving. Cat and dog lovers will especially love this heartwarming animal story.

Rabbit Hill

by Robert Lawson

Rabbit Hill is another Newbery-award-winning classic children's book. In this gentle chapter book, animals on Rabbit Hill are anxiously waiting for the arrival of new folks. Author Robert Lawson creates a few vivid animal characters, such as gentleman-like Father Rabbit, worry-prone Mother Rabbit, grumpy Uncle Rabbit and Little Georgie the rabbit. It is a charming and sweet animal fantasy story.

The Mouse and the Motorcycle

by Beverly Cleary

I believe that one of the reasons I remember 3rd grade so fondly is because my teacher read The Mouse and the Motorcycle aloud to us. One of my favorite books as a child! Ralph the mouse makes friends with a boy named Keith, the owner of a toy motorcycle, and goes on many adventures. This is especially great for boys who may not be as apt to read because it's filled with action and adventure.

Charlotte's Web

by E. B. White

Charlotte's Web has got to be one of the best children's books ever written. In this Newbery award-winning chapter book, a pig named Wilbur forms a strong friendship with a spider named Charlotte, who also lives on the farm. Charlotte saves the pig's life by spinning words on her web. E. B. White creates a very memorable character in Charlotte. Charlotte's Web is another good animal fantasy book to read aloud. 

Stuart Little

by E. B. White

Another wonderful story by E.B. White, Stuart Little is a classic chapter book that has delighted generations of children. A mouse born into a human family, Stuart Little goes through many adventures. His biggest adventures occur when he leaves home in search of a lovely bird named Margalo. Like The Mouse and the Motorcycle, this one is filled with adventure. 

The Horse and His Boy

by C. S. Lewis

While The Horse and His Boy is the third story in the Chronicles of Narnia Series, it stands alone in the series and does not at all need to be read before or after the other Narnia books (though they are all wonderful books). Shasta, a boy living in the land of Calormen, discovers that his master is selling him to a Tarkaan, a noble from the south. The boy meets Bree, a talking horse of Narnia who was captured when he was a young colt. Together, they decide to flee to Narnia. On their long journey, the boy and his horse have many adventures and are joined by a brave aristocratic girl named Aravis and her talking horse called Hwin. 

The Tiger Rising

by Kate DiCamillo

Another wonderful read by Kate Dicamillo, The Tiger Rising is a book that will touch your heart. Walking through the misty Florida woods one morning, twelve-year-old Rob Horton is stunned to encounter a tiger - a real-life, very large tiger - pacing back and forth in a cage. What’s more, on the same extraordinary day, he meets Sistine Bailey, a girl who shows her feelings as readily as Rob hides his. As they learn to trust each other, and ultimately, to be friends, Rob and Sistine prove that some things - like memories, and heartaches, and tigers - can’t be locked up forever. 

Misty of Chincoteague

by Marguerite Henry

Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry is a classic children's book in the genre of realistic fiction. Main characters in the chapter book, two children named Paul and Maureen, set their eyes on Phantom, the wildest horse on Assateague Island. They work really hard to earn enough to buy the horse. After twists and turns, the two children bring the wild mare and her colt Misty to their home on Chincoteague Island. In the end, they have to decide whether to set Phantom free. 


by Ursula K. Le Guin

Catwings by Ursula K. Le Guin is a story about the adventures of four cats with wings as they leave the city and find a new home in the country. This easy-to-read animal fantasy book will also appeal to children whose reading level may be below grade. There is also a sequel to this book—these two are favorites of my oldest daughter who is so in love with cats!

Henry Huggins

by Beverly Cleary

Henry Huggins, another wonderful read by Beverly Cleary, is a humorous story about a boy and his dog, Ribsy. After third grader Henry Huggins finds a stray dog at a drugstore, hilarious adventures follow, such as winning top prize in a dog show when Henry has mistakenly put pink powder on Ribsy. Henry Huggins is a memorable character that many children can relate to. Kids in third grade through sixth grade will enjoy this funny chapter book in the genre of realistic fiction.

Wild Thing

by Dandi Daley Mackall

The first in the Winner the Horse Gentler Series, this book is the perfect read for horse loving girls. Twelve-year-old Winnie Willis has a way with horses. She can gentle the wildest mare, but other parts of her life don't always come as easily. Along with her dad and sister, Lizzy, Winnie is learning how to live without her mom, who was also a natural horse gentler. As Winnie teaches her horses about unconditional love and blind trust, God shows Winnie that he can be trusted too. Readers will be hooked on the series' vivid characters, whose quirky personalities fill Winnie's life with friendship and adventure. For younger readers, there is a similar series called Backyard Horses.

Island of the Blue Dolphins

by Scott O'dell

In the Pacific there is an island that looks like a big fish sunning itself in the sea. Around it, blue dolphins swim, otters play, and sea elephants and sea birds abound. once, Indians also lived on the island. And when they left and sailed to the east, one young girl was left behind. Based on a true story, this is the story of Karana, the Indian girl who lived alone for years on the Island of the Blue Dolphins. Year after year, she watched one season pass into another and waited for a ship to take her away. But while she waited, she kept herself alive by building shelter, making weapons, finding food, and fighting her enemies, the wild dogs. It is not only an unusual adventure of survival, but also a tale of natural beauty and personal discovery.

The Magician's Elephant

by Kate DiCamillo

Another wonderful read by Kate Dicamillo, The Magician's Elephant is a timeless fable filled with the largest themes – hope and belonging, desire and compassion – with the lightness of a magician's touch. When a fortuneteller's tent appears in the market square of the city of Baltese, orphan Peter Augustus Duchene knows the questions that he needs to ask: Does his sister still live? And if so, how can he find her? The fortuneteller's mysterious answer (an elephant! An elephant will lead him there!) sets off a chain of events so remarkable, so impossible, that you will hardly dare to believe it’s true.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

by Kate DiCamillo

There is a reason why so many of Miss DiCamillo's books have made our list—she is an incredible author and a great weaver of animal stories. Once, in a house on Egypt Street, there lived a china rabbit named Edward Tulane. The rabbit was very pleased with himself, and for good reason: he was owned by a girl named Abilene, who adored him completely. And then, one day, he was lost... Kate DiCamillo takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the depths of the ocean to the net of a fisherman, from the bedside of an ailing child to the bustling streets of Memphis. Along the way, we are shown a miracle -- that even a heart of the most breakable kind can learn to love, to lose, and to love again.

The Case of the Jewel Covered Cat Statues

by Cindy Vincent

Perfect for cat lovers and mystery lovers alike, Buckley and Bogey, Cat Detectives, find their next big case to be their most complicated ever! It all starts when someone hides a mysterious package in their Mom's antique store - in the middle of the night! Of course, the boys find it, and put it in a nice, safe place, until they can open it... and find the rightful owner. But that's when a whole bunch of suspicious people show up in St. Gertrude, and every single one of them seems to be after that package! Holy Catnip! Plus, everything happens just when a priceless, jeweled statue collection goes on display at the St. Gertrude Museum. Missing from that collection are two jewel covered cat statues that disappeared almost a hundred and fifty years ago. But soon Buckley and Bogey wonder how long those statues will stay missing. Because this is one case that really keeps them on their paws! My daughters love this book as well as the other two in the series which we didn't read in order, though that'd be fun, too.

The Wanderings of Clare Skymer

by George MacDonald

A near-forgotten classic written by another of my favorite authors in the world, The Wanderings of Clare Skymer is one of George MacDonalds few children's books. He writes of adventure, mystery, and weaves a wonderful story. In The Wanderings of Clare Skymer, a homeless boy wanders through the countryside of nineteenth-century England. With his faithful dog, young Clare Skymer finds adventure among tramps, thieves, wild animals, and fellow refugees from society, and perseveres through his devotion to God. 


by Beverly Cleary

Newbery Medal-winning author Beverly Cleary gives Henry's dog, Ribsy, the center stage in this dog's-eye view of the adventure of a lifetime. Good ol' Ribsy's ever-curious mind has always gotten him into scrapes, but this time he may have gone too far. After a comical turn of events, Ribsy finds himself in the wrong station wagon with the wrong children. Ribsy will do anything to find Henry, but there's plenty of excitement to be had along the way—and scoring a touchdown for a local high school team is only part of the fun!


by Beverly Cleary
Another one by Beverly Cleary, Socks is a very funny chapter book about Ramona Quimby's kindergarten experience. Socks is one happy cat. He lives the good life with his affectionate owners, Mr. and Mrs. Bricker. Ever since the day they saved him from a life spent in a mailbox drop slot, Socks has been the center of their world. And he always has everything he needs—tasty kitty treats and all the lap room he could want!But when a new baby arrives, suddenly the Brickers have less and less time for Socks. Little Charles William is the one getting all the attention. Socks feels left out—and to show it, he starts getting into all sorts of trouble! What will it take to make Socks realize just how much the Brickers care about him?

Monday, June 29

Trudi Plush Mama and Baby Animal Puppets #Giveaway: Cuteness you have to see to believe!

Congrats to Cheryl R., the winner of this giveaway!
Get ready for some cuteness! Today I want to share four styles of completely adorable, softer-than-butter mama and baby puppets (or daddy, really, that’s up to you!) Magicforest's Trudi Puppets take “peekaboo” to a whole ‘nother level, and the baby finger puppet is the cutest thing ever! Plus, it tucks into mama’s pocket.  We chose to review the Koala Mama and Baby, but there is also a Hen, Owl, and Penguin set.  Aren't they adorable?!  

The Mama Koala is super soft with grey fur and white fluffy ears and chest. Mama's pouch for baby is accented with blue gingham check. The Baby Koala finger puppet is a puff of white with a smile just as big as his Mama’s.  

More about the toys:
Trudi Mama and Baby Puppets are a unique collection of pairs characterized by simple lines and extraordinary softness. They are the perfect size for little hands – and yes, even mom and dad can join in the fun too! Made by renowned Italian plush maker Trudi, you can rest assured that these puppets are safe for your little one. 

One of my readers will receive their choice of Puppet Set! U.S. only.
Enter by 6/27 at 11 pm anyone's time. 

You Can Find Magicforest On

Which animals do you think  your kiddo would like best?

Special thanks to the wonderful people at KidstuffPR and PomTree for this review and giveaway opportunity! 

Lions And Tigers... Or Bugs? #Giveaway Crafty Kids Will Adore!

The arts and crafts summer theme is going strong at our house this year!

My kiddos have spent hours creating with their Zoo 2 Do, Creative Fun Tote and Paper Pals kits!  These are recommended for 6 and up, and my 7-11 year olds love them.  They inspire so much creativity and there is so much variety--both in themes and materials included.  We were impressed!  Each box is packed with a TON of stuff!!
You can find them at a variety of stores--Kroger, Fred Meyer, Zulily, and Meijers.  Better and more pics of our creations are comin' soon!

All the Kits in this Series:  
Zoo 2 Do 
All the animals in the zoo are jumping up and down for you! Available at retailers Fred Meyer, Meijer and Kroger, this Zoo 2 Do kit with the tote-able handle, features monkey, giraffe, lion, zebra and others for a total of 25 zoo-themed projects.
Creative Fun Tote 
Rainy days and Sundays are ideal for this overflowing box of craft pieces that can be transformed into animals, cupcakes, bugs, pencil toppers and whatever the imagination can conjure. This fun tote is available at Fred Meyer, Meijer and Kroger stores. Kids can follow the enclosed project sheet or personalize with their own wacky ideas. Art is in the eye of the beholder!
Paper Pals Bugs & Flowers 
Even kids will allergies will adore these pretty flowers and friendly bugs that are tucked inside Paper Pals – a kit that starts with paper plates and paper cups! Available at Zulily and Meijers retailers coast to coast, this tote-able kit makes 12 big projects. A project sheet is included to start kids off. The final results are totally up to them!
One of my readers will receive all three craft kits (MSRP total value $38.97)!  Enter below by July 7th, at 11 pm anyone's time. 

You Can Find Fibre-Craft on  

Special thanks to the wonderful people at KidStuffPR and Fibre-Craft for this review and giveaway opportunity!

Games People Play! #SummerFun

Today's Jitterbugs Funshine Express Summer Theme was "Game Day!" Among other games, the kiddos made these Catch a Bead old-fashioned games along with Butterfly Flying Discs. In the pic below, you can see that everything you really do need comes in these kits! Each activity is packaged in a giant bag complete with everything you need--it's very organized and takes me zero prep time which I love! I can't say that loud enough!  The kiddos love their kits, too, and we're so happy we get to review them all and recommend them to you guys!  It's also easy to adapt each craft a bit if you have certain preferences--for instance, we wanted the variety of markers to add to the crayons for the flying discs. 

For our other reviews and more inspiring crafty pictures, head over to our dedicated Funshine Express tab.

Catch a Bead
Butterfly Flying Discs
Catching a bead!
Catch a Bead!

Butterfly Flying Disc... minus the butterfly. ;)
There are 2 different Jitterbugs Theme Kits Available!  Choose one or both.  We chose both!  You can read about the rest of them at our Funshine Express tab above.
Included in each kit are supplies to make 8 creative projects with child-directed instructions, additional activities and games. Each kit is packaged with enough materials for 4 children! Designed for kiddos ages 6-10.
Kit A Themes
Magical Metamorphosis
Nature Explorations
Games People Play

Kit B Themes
Wranglers and Rodeos
Spectacular Sports
Summer Cook-Out

Discount: Get $20 off!
Click the picture link in our left sidebar for that special discount!  They'll be shipping the July kits soon!

Special thanks to the wonderful people at Funshine Express for providing us with these kits to review!

Sunday, June 28

Hedgehogs and Picnics, and a Free Fireflies Kit! #SummerCrafts

Who doesn't love hedgehogs?! And picnics?! The picnic theme for Funshine Express was so fun.  The kiddos decorated these cute cups, made pink lemonade for them, and made these super cute Hedgehog food carriers.  We were in the mood for pancakes which fit perfectly in the Hedgehog plates!  Aren't these cute?  They were so fun!   Maybe you've read my past Funshine reviews, but if not, you should know their summer subscription kits come with so many fun, organized crafts (enough items for 4 kids) and include everything you need for each theme plus they're customized for a variety of ages.  We love them!  For our other reviews and more inspiring crafty pictures, head to our dedicated Funshine Express tab.

Personalized cups and Hedgehog plates/containers

So cute!  So easy and fun!

Pancakes and Lemonade
What's inside the hedgehog?  Pancakes!

Discount: Get $20 off! 
Click the picture link in our left sidebar for that special discount!  They'll be shipping the July kits soon!

Special thanks to the wonderful people at Funshine Express for providing us with these kits to review!


Saturday, June 27

Owls! #SummerCrafting

Who doesn't love owls?!  I was happy to see them in one of my kiddos' FunShine Express kits. As you can see, they're made with construction paper, googly eyes, and a variety of scrapbook paper--which I thought was a great idea! (thank you, Funshine Express!) The different varieties of bark and wood themed paper was a great touch for the noses and feet, but there was a country theme my daughter loved, too.  

Aren't the owls adorable in their natural habitats? I wish I could tell you the wind didn't bluster and blow the poor things upside down and all around... but it did, so we brought them in. ;)  For our other reviews and more inspiring crafty pictures, head over to our dedicated Funshine Express tab.

Discount: Get $20 off! 
Click the picture link in our left sidebar for that special discount!  They'll be shipping the July kits soon!

Special thanks to the wonderful people at Funshine Express for providing us with these kits to review!

Friday, June 26

Butterflies Emerging From Cocoons! #SummerCrafts

Our summer break is in full swing!

Even so, I like to keep my kiddos busy with arts and crafts, new books and activities to make the summer even more rewarding and to keep the boredom at bay.  The other day, they made these butterflies and cocoons with their FunShine Express kit.  What I especially love is that the kit included everything my 4 kiddos needed, as well as directions they could follow themselves to create and play with these butterflies for hours.  Check out one of the favorites.  Isn't it gorgeous in its natural habitat?

For our other reviews and more inspiring crafty pictures, head over to our dedicated Funshine Express tab.

Discount: Get $20 off! 
Click the picture link in our left sidebar for that special discount!  They'll be shipping the July kits soon!

Special thanks to the wonderful people at Funshine Express for providing us with these kits to review!

Thursday, June 25

Desert Landscape Paintings #SummerArt

My kiddos made some gorgeous paintings as we studied the Wild West themed section of their FunShine Express kits.  The kits included everything from the cups for the water colors (made with food dye) to the sand for the texture of the desert landscapes.... not to mention all of the materials inbetween like the watercolor paper, poster-board, and cactus shapes. I love the way my littles did the cactus shadows and the sunsets.  Aren't they beautiful? We decided to combine acrylic with water color for more contrast and some brighter colors.  The kiddos wanted to stand next to my Mother's Day gifts from them (potted flowers and a garden songbird) for their pictures--how cute they are!

For our other reviews and more inspiring crafty pictures, head over to our dedicated Funshine Express tab.

Discount: Get $20 off! 
Click the picture link in our left sidebar for that special discount!  They'll be shipping the July kits soon!

Special thanks to the wonderful people at Funshine Express for providing us with these kits to review!

Saturday, June 20

Free! "God Made Kittens" Stickerbook and Bunny Stickers

Tyndale Rewards has a ton of new stuff for littles--my kiddos are going to love this one!  It's only 15 pts from Tyndale Rewards and if you're new to their free rewards program, you get 25 points just for signing up with my link!  The "It's Spring" bunny stickers are only 10 pts, so you can get both--shipping is free, too!  Grab these one before they're all gone. :)