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Are My Kids Too Young to see the Harry Potter Deathly Hallows Movie?

At home my kids have read the Harry Potter books so my 11-year-old son definitely wants to see the The Deathly Hallows Movie (part one) coming out this week. My seven-year-old daughter (who will be eight next month) also says she wants to see the latest Harry Potter film. My main concern is that the film may be too scary for her... and borderline scary for him. When my daughter finished books one through three, she decided to "take a break" and switch to something else. I suspect this was because the books were becoming a bit dark for her. Just the same, she hears all the buzz about the new Harry film and wants to see what it's all about. My son, on the other hand, plowed through all seven books and enjoyed every moment. He read the Harry Potter books in 5th grade and I think it was the perfect age to dive into this series, at least for him.

This brings me to the films and the question I raised. Remember, when Hogwarts was all in the imagination of the reader, no two versions were quite alike, and each new reader who entered Rowling’s world of wizardry could make the story that suited their tastes. That all changed when the movie versions were produced. Moviemakers leave nothing to the imagination and they need to draw an audience to see the films. How exactly does that house on Grimmauld Place make itself visible? What does Diagon Alley look like? How about Dumbledore’s office? And what do Harry, Ron, and Hermione really look like? Now we know; or, at least, we’ve been handed a pre-packaged version that most people connect to the books. Nothing is left to the imagination.

Here is the preview of The Deathly Hallows Movie (part one). Share your thoughts about when it is (or isn't) appropriate to see the movie version of a cherished book.

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Finding the Right Books for My Child's Reading Level

Each fall my kids start a new reading log for school. The teacher usually gives her students a lot of freedom to pick their books as long as the titles are at the appropriate reading level. Many parents (me included) are confused by all the leveling systems and would not know how to find a level Q book if their life depended on it. So what's a mom to do? Well, I learned about the Teacher Book Wizard from my daughter's first grade teacher and have been a fan ever since. Don't be fooled by the name, parents can use the Wizard too.

The Book Wizard will help parents find:

  • Book and author information
  • Reading levels
  • Book-based lesson plans, booktalks and discussion guides
  • Series lists

There is even a little widget you can add to your personal or school blog that let's you search on the spot:


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The Magic School Bus is Back in Action!

Today's younger parents may remember The Magic School Bus from their own TV watching days, or from their younger siblings' love of the series. This show has really stood the test of time, entertaining and educating children (and their parents) more than a decade after its TV premier. If you are not familiar with the The Magic School Bus, it is an award-winning television series that was based on the children’s books of the same name by former elementary school teacher and librarian, Joanna Cole. The show originally aired from 1994 to 1997 on PBS and was the first fully animated series on PBS Kids.

This fall television series is being introduced to a new generation of viewers on Qubo. While it’s geared towards children between the ages of five and eight, younger children are sure to enjoy the scientific adventures lead by Mrs. Frizzle, the children’s eccentric teacher. The Magic School Bus teaches children to love science and launches them on an exciting exploration of the world around them.

The episodes are well-written, teaching important facts while taking children on imaginative adventures that would be impossible in real life. Kids agree that Magic School Bus is "funny” and they “learn stuff” when watching. The Magic School Bus website also has a lot of fun activities. Lily Tomlin speaks the role of Mrs. Frizzle and introduces her students to science with a fun factor and is often heard saying, “Take chances, make mistakes, and get messy!“ The Magic School Bus takes children on fantastic “field trips” into the middle of a volcano or even inside the human body.

My son was given his first Magic School Bus books as a preschooler. We discovered the DVDs while he was in Kindergarten. He was a budding scientist the show (and the books) were an early favorite. The website has recently been redesigned to entertain new fans of the Magic School Bus. Hop on board and enjoy the ride at



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New Scholastic Summer Reading World Record

The Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge is officially over and we have set a new Scholastic World Record!

The Summer Reading program logged a total of 52,710,368 minutes by over 110,800 users from every state in the United States and 120 different countries. Kids around the world worked together, reading and logging minutes to officially break the Scholastic Reading World Record of 35,846,094 minutes, which was set in 2009. Check back to the Summer Challenge site on September 10th to see the final results. Great reading!

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A Reading Record is at Stake!

Looking for ways to keep your kids on track this summer? Check out Summer Reading Challenge for some fun activities that will keep your kids tuned in to reading this summer! The Summer Reading Challenge can help kids to find books they want to read, play games, connect with other kids who want to talk about their favorite books. The Challenge is set to break the Reading World Record... but we need your kids to help!

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It's All About the Potty

I have been known to take the stance of "ignore it and maybe it will fix itself." For some reason, I feel like this has worked, but the two instances that come to mind where I applied this technique did not turn out as planned. Those would be when the dishwasher started retaining water with each cycle and when we potty trained.

Or rather, when we didn't potty train. I kept hoping some magical spell would occur overnight and poof our 3 year old would suddenly be diaper free. It didn't happen that way. In fact, it took our wonderful and kind preschool teacher giving a gentle nudge during parent teacher conferences to finally go cold turkey on the nappies.

As you well know we parents spend a lot of time dealing with poopy in one way or another.  Without being crass, I feel like we all share common memories of our children's poopy life. There's the one that squirts all the way across the room when they're infants. There's the one that blows out the leg of the diaper. This is how it goes. And it's so important that our kids are able to comfortably and effectively poop, especially when they're suddenly sitting on the potty themselves waiting for something to happen. Enter our wonderful friend, fiber.

We know we need to get enough fiber through a variety of healthy foods and supplements. Try explaining that to a 3 year old who only wants to eat foods that are white to beige in hue. One day it may be all you can do to serve up a popsicle and call it a fruit. We do the best we can. Right?

I do have two suggestions for kid-friendly healthy fiber: crispy kale chips and fiber gummies.

Crispy Kale Chips

  • Rinse a head of curly kale.
  • Remove the leaves from the stalk and tear them into bite-sized pieces.
  • Arrange in a single layer on a cookie sheet and blot dry with paper towel or clean tea towel.
  • Douse with olive oil and mix to coat with your hands. (Moisturizing!)
  • Sprinkle liberally with kosher or sea salt.
  • Pop in a 350 degree oven for 15-25 minutes.
  • Stir around a bit, turn the oven off and leave in the oven for an additional 20-60 minutes (this extra time crisps it up even more, but keeps it from over cooking).

The ideal is crisp, deep jade green, extremely munchable chips. My daughter loves these… on some days. You know how it is. But, she's always ready for a gummy.

I'm happy to say we've successfully left the diapers behind us and have made friends with the potty. And we did get the dishwasher fixed, but it took a while.

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Looking Into the Lunchbox

Let me be perfectly clear on this one topic: I am not a lover of change. I get nervous, worried, twitchy, even when my rational mind knows everything will be okay. Case in point: making lunch for my preschooler. In the grand scheme of things, this is not a big deal. But now near the end of the school year looking back on the beginning of the school year, I will tell you this particular topic caused me considerable angst.

The daycare where Hazel happily played and grew from the tender age of 3 months to the big girl age of 3 years provided breakfast, lunch, and snacks -- amazing! When it came time for Hazel's switch over to preschool I had lots of concerns for her: about how she would handle the new teachers and classmates, new routines, and new settings. But she is a resilient and brave girl and she did just fine.

My main worry for myself, I admit to you now, was what in the world I would pack in her lunch box every day. I was baffled. As a full time working mom, I just barely have the time and energy to get family dinner together every night. Now I would have to add another meal prep after that? Was this humanly possible?

I'm thrilled to say it was. For me the absolute key to this process was to break lunch down into groups with options for each. At the start of the year I'd consult a written list and even jot down lunches in a notebook to make sure I was keeping things varied.

If your child's lunch box is looking cavernous or you just need some new options, here's how I do it:

Pick one from each category:


  • Leftovers from last night's dinner
  • Half a PB&J or other sandwich

Dairy (I sometimes double up here and forgo the main):

  • Yogurt
  • Cottage cheese
  • Cheese stick

Fruit or veg:

  • Apple Slices
  • Edamame
  • 1/2 banana
  • Broccoli spears



As all moms know, providing healthy, wholesome, varied, and well-received food for our kids ranks way up there on the list of essential parenting. From the day we brought baby Hazel home from the hospital, I have been awed by how big a role nutrition plays in the whole parenting experience. It's in my top three along with keeping her safe and showing her love. I'm proud to have cracked the code on the lunch box mystery. I'm intimidated no longer.

Next stop? PreK, here we come!

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Canine Sibling Rivalry

One of my colleagues recently became a grandmother! I asked her yesterday how the new family was doing, and she said that the parents and baby are fine, happy, healthy...but the family dog is perturbed. I said, "There should be a new-baby-in-the-house book for dogs!" and we both laughed for a minute and then simultaneously remembered that there actually is such a book: Madeleine L'Engle's The Other Dog, in which Touche the Poodle catalogs the ways in which the new "dog" that her people have brought home is utterly inferior to her own charming self. Touche is particularly scornful of the diaper-changing that she witnesses, noting sniffily that "White cloths or no, I would never do it in the house," but eventually admits that "in spite of myself...I am getting very fond of our other dog."

L'Engle's book isn't the only one where a dog has to adjust to a tiny, screamy, attention-monopolizing intruder. As it turns out, there is a whole mini-genre on the topic. In McDuff and the Baby, by Rosemary Wells and Susan Jeffers, the scrappy little Westie, who first appeared as a stray rescued by Fred and Lucy in McDuff Moves In, faces disruption in his cozy retro household. With the arrival of the baby, Fred and Lucy no longer read the comics to McDuff, or take him for walks, and he can't hear the radio over the baby's crying. He retaliates, in charmingly understated fashion, by glowering at the baby (which no one notices), and then by refusing his food, which does get Fred and Lucy's attention. When they make an effort to include McDuff, he and the baby begin to enjoy each other's company, and the book ends with the two exchanging convivial "woof"s. 

In Truelove, by Babbette Cole, the displaced hero is so demoralized by the change in the household that, after all his gifts and advances are ignored, and the love song he sings (or howls) for the baby gets him kicked out to the porch for being too loud, he runs away and joins a pack of homeless dogs and has to be rescued from the pound. The fact that this story is told mostly in the pictures, while the text is a series of cliched sayings about love ( like "Love gives you strength" and "Love makes your heart sing," ) makes it all the more poignant. 

Any of these would be a great present for a family with a new baby and a beloved dog...or a beloved older sibling, who might be able to relate!

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Inch By Inch, Row By Row: Some Books About Gardening

I am a city girl by nature and have come late to gardening, but this year I have finally gotten a patch of ground weeded, have obtained some good soil for it, and just two days ago, with my daughter's sporadic help, planted my first crop of peas and lettuce, two vegetables that I have been assured are EASY to grow. I sure hope so.

Before this spring, my gardening experience was primarily literary. The first garden-related thing I bought-- last year, even--was a packet of carrot seeds. I had a strong conviction that carrots were a guaranteed, rewarding thing to grow in a garden. I think I was strongly influenced by The Carrot Seed, Ruth Krauss and Crockett Johnson's classic tale of a little boy whose perseverence in tending to his single carrot-seed garden pays off with a gargantuan carrot that astonishes his heretofore-doubting family. But then a friend told me that carrots can be tough to grow in this climate, and since my primary goal this year is to start a garden that actually bears produce so as to encourage myself to continue, I thought I'd wait, at least until after the frost date.

So, peas and lettuce it was. We went out and planted them on Tuesday evening, and on Wednesday morning, despite knowing intellectually that the seeds will take a couple of weeks to sprout, I woke up wondering if they might have come up yet. And if not: why not? And when?? Just like Toad in "The Garden," (which can be found in the book Frog and Toad Together,) I wanted to run out to the garden and command them: "Now seeds, start growing!"

So many gardening books--like Paul Fleischman's Seedfolks, or that classic of all gardening novels, The Secret Garden--are about how working the earth and making things grow transform the gardener and even foster community. Gardening teaches, among other things, patience. Maybe, with time, my I'll become master gardeners, like the young girl who transforms her grumpy uncle's rooftop in Sarah Stewart and David Small's wonderful The Gardener, But for now, I'm just a beginner.

What I hope for this year is that my family will feel some connection with the earth and with nature, and maybe get to eat some peas and lettuce that we grew ourselves. Or possibly even some carrots-- just regular-sized would be fine.

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