Thursday, December 30, 2010

My Weird School Series by Dan Gutman

With kooky titles like Miss Daisy Is Crazy!  and Mr. Klutz Is Nuts!, how could Josh resist?
I chanced upon this series at the library and decided that Josh might enjoy reading them over the holidays.  From a stack of books that I’d picked up, he just zoomed in on Miss Daisy Is Crazy! and started reading it on the drive home, chuckling and laughing out loud at certain parts.  I had to ask him to put down the book during the drive.  He’d pick it up again as soon as we stop for a light and I’d had to remind him to put it down again.  In the end, I gave up.  He finished the book shortly after we got home.

Then he started on the next one, Mrs. Roopy Is Loopy!, and finished it that night.  To say that he loves the books would be an understatement.  He just devours them and I’d see and hear him laughing out loud, exclaiming, “This is so funny!”

I read through one (Miss Daisy Is Crazy!) just to see what it is that he finds so funny in them and I’ll have to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed it, too.  The story is told from A.J.’s point of view.  A.J. is a boy who hates school.  A.J.’s voice rings true and you could almost picture A.J. as you read through his accounts of events.  I guess it’s easy for Josh to relate to another little boy who’s telling about stuff that go on at his school. 

The My Weird School series by Dan Gutman are chapter books (about 100 pages per book) set at Ella Mentry School. (You just gotta love the names!)  Weird things seem to happen at that school.  All the grown-ups are, well, weird.  Check out some of the titles above. Weird = Funny in Josh’s world.

I think part of what Josh loves about this series, too, is that the main characters (A.J. and know-it-all Andrea and their friends) are featured throughout the series and the setting is the same, so there is some sort of continuity to it.  I asked him why he loves the each of the My Weird School books that he’s read and every time he’d say, “Because it’s funny!”  I guess if you’re 5 and you read chapter titles like “Have Your Cake and Eat It, Too” (Mr. Louie Is Screwy!), “Indoor Recess Is No Fun” (Ms. Todd Is Odd!), and “The Amazing World of Poop” (Ms. Krup Cracks Me Up!), you’d be totally drawn in, too!
Here is the complete My Weird School series:
  1. Miss Daisy Is Crazy!
  2. Mr. Klutz Is Nuts!
  3. Mrs. Roopy Is Loopy!
  4. Ms. Hannah Is Bananas!
  5. Miss Small Is Off the Wall!
  6. Mr. Hynde Is Out of His Mind!
  7. Mrs. Cooney Is Loony!
  8. Ms. LaGrange Is Strange!
  9. Miss Lazar Is Bizarre!
  10. Mr. Docker Is Off His Rocker!
  11. Mrs. Kormel Is Not Normal!
  12. Ms. Todd Is Odd!
  13. Mrs. Patty Is Batty!
  14. Miss Holly Is Too Jolly!
  15. Mr. Macky Is Wacky!
  16. Ms. Coco Is Loco!
  17. Miss Suki Is Kooky!
  18. Mrs. Yonkers Is Bonkers!
  19. Dr. Carbles Is Losing His Marbles!
  20. Mr. Louie Is Screwy!
  21. Ms. Krup Cracks Me Up!
And then there’s the My Weird School Daze series, when A.J. and Andrea move on to third grade and get a new teacher…
  1. Mrs. Dole Is Out of Control!
  2. Mr. Sunny Is Funny!
  3. Mr. Granite Is from Another Planet!
  4. Coach Hyatt Is a Riot!
  5. Officer Spence Makes No Sense!
  6. Mrs. Jafee Is Daffy!
  7. Dr. Brad Has Gone Mad!
  8. Miss Laney Is Zany!
  9. Mrs. Lizzy Is Dizzy!
  10. Miss Mary Is Scary!
  11. Mr. Tony Is Full of Baloney!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Book Depository

Why haven’t I heard of The Book Depository until just recently?  This surely has to be one of the best-kept secrets.  Free shipping on books –to practically all countries worldwide!

Free Delivery on all Books at the Book Depository

The Book Depository was recommended to me by Josh’s school librarian when I asked where I could order certain sets of books that I’d been told were not available on Amazon.  She mentioned that that’s from where they get most of the school library books and that delivery time is usually around one week, certainly no more than two.

I decided to check it out and now that I’d received all the books from my first order with them, I know that I will be using them again and again.  They definitely do come out cheaper compared to Amazon (unless you live in the US and can avail of Amazon’s free shipping on certain products) and even to Paddyfield.  Here’s a quick comparison I did on a couple of books:

Book Depository
Encyclopedia Brown 4-Volume Boxed Set GBP 10.51
(HKD 127.22)*
USD 9.98 + 9.98 (shipping)
(HKD 160.95)
HKD 160 + 15 (shipping)
(HKD 175.00)
The Giving Tree GBP 10.18
(HKD 123.22)*
USD 9.93 +  9.98 (shipping)
(HKD 160.55)
HKD 169 + 15 (shipping)
(HKD 194.00)
*Conversion done with help from

The above table was put together under the assumption that all books are to be delivered to a Hong Kong address. does offer free shipping for orders over HKD 180, but even taking only the price of each item alone, it is still more expensive compared to The Book Depository.

I had ordered a total of 13 books from The Book Depository and I had received all 13 within two weeks of my ordering;  some I had received in just one week’s time.  The only beef I have is that each one of the books was packed and mailed separately.  It doesn’t matter to me that each was mailed separately as shipping was free, but the books were individually packed either in a bubble envelope or in corrugated cartons, --which, to me, was a bit of a waste.   I don’t understand why they could not have packed the books together to save on packing materials.

That said, they are the most cost-efficient in terms of ordering books online that I’ve come across so far.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Aussie Nibbles and Aussie Bites | Age-Appropriate Content for Proficient Early Readers

What do you do when you have a child who has learned to read early and who has gone beyond the “Look at Timmy. See Timmy. See Timmy run.” books?  Josh loves Star Wars and would devour any material related to Star Wars.  I am okay with that, even though I find the material a tad violent. Josh assures me that “It’s all just pretend, Mommy!”  My problem with the Star Wars books is that they are meant for older readers, readers with more understanding and with more life experiences from which they could draw to be able to put what they read in context.

One time, Josh asked me what an assassin was.  I told him.  He then followed up by asking if there are assassins in Hong Kong.  Umm, I don’t want to be talking about assassins with my 5-year old.
At a recent parent-teacher conference, his teacher suggested Aussie Nibbles and Aussie Bites.  She voiced out exactly what I was concerned about –i.e., that there’s a dearth of materials that are age-appropriate and suitable for very young proficient readers out there.  She then recommended Aussie Nibbles and Aussie Bites.

The series of short chapter books are written by different Australian authors.  Aussie Nibbles books are for readers just beginning and Aussie Bites cater to the 7-10 age group.  The books have “bites” on them –a smaller bite for Nibbles and a slightly bigger bite for Bites.  And then you progress on to Chomps for more advanced readers.  There is larger print on the Nibbles and the print gets smaller on the Bites.
The Aussie Nibbles were quick reads for Josh.  He really loves them and could finish two in one afternoon (yes, reading through dinner!).  Once he starts on one, he’s deaf to the world.  The house could be on fire 
and he wouldn’t even notice.
I plan to get Josh to read as many of the Aussie Nibbles as I could get from the library before introducing Aussie Bites to him.

As far as I could tell, the books are not available in the local bookstores, but I was able to borrow quite a number of them from the public library.  The Hong Kong Central Library (in Causeway Bay) has a very good collection.  If you want to order online, you’d find a better collection through Puffin Books Australia.
Image: Stephen Michael King, Illustrator.

CSN Winner!


Congratulations to Casey from Bumpin’ Along the Road Less Travelled for winning the US$40 CSN Giveaway!

Caseybumpinalong said...

I voted for you on Top Mommy Blogger


Please email me at buckeroomama (at) gmail (dot) com so that I could email you the promo code.  Congratulations again!

A big thank you to all who entered the giveaway. I hope to have more for you soon!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Our Very First Giveaway - US$40 CSN Promo Code!

CSN Stores is sponsoring a giveaway on Kiddie Treasures –yay!  It’s fun doing giveaways and it’s doubly fun when it’s sponsored by CSN Stores.  I’ve done a number of giveaways with CSN on my other blog, Mamahood, Among Other Things… and each time it’s been really fun.  It’s just so exciting to browse through CSN site and go through their many online stores (they have over 200!).  You can find pretty much everything there –

from a pretty briefcase like this one,image Who says briefcases need to be boring?

to arts and crafts materials,image Just look at that --arts and crafts heaven!

to Dr. Seuss 3-piece storage bin sets!image How cute are these?!

One lucky reader gets to win a US$40 promo code to apply to his/her shopping spree at CSN Stores!  Here’s how to earn chances to win:

Mandatory entry:
Visit CSN Stores and leave a comment with the link to the item/s that you would get if you win the US$40 promo code.

Extra entries (separate comment for each, please):
  • One extra entry if you are a public Google Friends Connect (GFC) follower. 
  • Tweet about this giveaway and leave me the link. You could simply copy and paste this:  Win $40 CSN promo code at Kiddie Treasures @Buckeroomama #Giveaway– 1 extra entry.
  • You can get an 1 extra entry per day if you vote for Buckeroomama by clicking on the Top Mommy Blogger button below –and then click their “Click Here to Enter” button at the top of their page.  Easy-peasy!  Leave me a separate comment each time you do (you can do it only once every 24 hours). 

One winner with a valid entry will be selected on 16th November using The winner will be announced and must respond with a current email address within 48 hours to claim. Otherwise, another eligible entry will be chosen.

Have fun and good luck!
*Giveaway open to readers with US and Canada addresses only.
Note: I have not received anything from CSN Stores for this post other than the opportunity to do a giveaway for the readers of Kiddie Treasures…

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Red Book

red book - cover   red book - inside page
                                           The front cover      /      The inside page

Josh had received The Red Book (a 2005 Caldecott Honor book by Barbara Lehman) as a birthday present.  As a mom, I think books make perfect gifts.  Whether to give or to receive.

Do you notice anything about the front cover of this wonderful book?  No words, no title.  Yup.  Well, apart from the inside page which carries the book title, the author’s name and the publishing company, the rest of the pages are WORDLESS, too!  Which is what makes this book so interesting.

What I love about this is that you and your child can interpret the pictures any way you want.  Especially for children as young as Zoë (3yo) or even younger, the book presents a fantastic opportunity to engage your child by asking them questions, getting them to tell you what they think is happening based on what they see.  You’ll just be pleasantly surprised at how eagerly they will take over the reins from you and start to spin their own yarn, using the pictures as guides.  Best of all, there is no wrong interpretation.  For older children like Josh (5yo), this book presents opportunities to talk about faraway lands and what-might-be scenarios.  Just super for letting their imagination run wild.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

On the Night You Were Born


On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman is a must-have for your child's library.

It's one of those books that I'd bought and had forgotten about... Josh asked me for a "surprise" book one night when he was 2.5 years old and I dug this out.

We sat down to read and it was such a 'magical' session for both of us. I won't ruin the surprise for you, but suffice it to say that it is a very wonderful book and both you and your child will be touched by the beauty and magic of this book. The smile on Josh's face as we read was priceless. I could tell that reading this book together made him feel very special.

I’d read On the Night You Were Born to Josh so many times when he was younger and each time we’d read it together, it still held the same magic as the first time I’d read it to him.  Last night, when we were choosing books for bedtime, I’d offered to read this book to Zoë.  She had the same quiet wonder on her face that Josh would have whenever we’d read the book.  And I found myself transported again by the magic, by the celebration as I read the book to her.

This book would make a wonderful gift for a new mother (regardless of the number of babies that she has already had before).  It is a most lovely read for parent/child.  Perfect for bedtime reading, as your child sits snugly on your lap with your arms around him/her as you read in awe-filled hushed tones about the night your child was born…

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Face-Painting : Creative Expression for Mommy and Kidlets

If you have been over to my other blog, you would know that we have been doing plenty of face-painting lately. I kind of got into it because my friend was having a party for her daughter and I’d sort of promised that I would help out. I did tell her that I’ve never really done face-painting before, but she was kind enough to bring along a kit and we both practiced on her daughter and on Josh and Zoë first.

We started with small flowers and butterflies, balloons and spiders, small details around the eyes.


It was so much fun! For both of us and for the kids. They kept asking us to paint more and before we knew it, we had painted small drawings on their cheeks, all up and down their arms. and we even started working on their legs!

I decided to get my own set and I got braver and decided to try full-face jobs. They’re not as hard as I’d thought they might be. You just need to be VERY patient, though. Especially if your tikesters are any like mine, who can hardly sit still throughout the session. You’ll probably be gritting your teeth and threatening not to complete the job if they won’t sit still. (No? I wish I have your patience.) BUT, the look on their face after you’ve finished and they’ve checked out your work for themselves in the mirror? Is SO worth it. Seriously.


Face-painting has been such a lot of fun. I got to let my creative juices flow. There are tons of face-paint designs online to copy from and the face-paint kit that I got came with a guide. But even without these, it was fun to come up with my own designs. You’d be surprised at how easily inspired you could be! For the kiddies, it was great seeing them get into the character of whatever face paint design they got. There was plenty of pretend play happening after each session and I so enjoyed watching them walking around, proudly showing off their face art, and engaging each other in various pretend scenarios centered around their face-paint characters.


The face paint kit I use is by Snazaroo. In Hong Kong, you can get it from Bumps to Babes for HK$150. It comes with a brush, a cosmetic sponge, a step-by-step guide with a selection of designs to copy, and 8x 2ml colors (red, blue, white, black, green, pink, yellow, and purple). The paints are hypoallergenic, non-toxic, and water-based. They wash off very easily.


I’ve tried to use face-painting crayons before, but I find the Snazaroo face paints a lot easier to use. For one, these face paints are easier to apply, especially if you have to paint over a big area (with the sponge). I had bought extra face paints in select colors for those colors that I know I will use often. Bumps to Babes carry the 18ml ones (HK$50 each).


And the glitters? I just got some from the local stationery store. Just make sure that you get the glitters that are labeled "good for body, nail, hair," as opposed to glitter that you normally use for arts and crafts.


I got a couple of these glitters from the stationery store at Stanley (where the old Pepperoni's used to be) for HK$15 each and then I found the exact same ones in another stationery store near where we live for only HK$6. (Yes, a whopping difference of HK$9! The Stanley stationery store was 2.5x more expensive! For HK$30 for just two from the Stanley shop, I could have gotten FIVE from the other store!) Glitters add a lot of oomph to the face-paints. Go get some.


Image credits: Snazaroo product shots from Snazaroo website; glitters from Fan Hung Enterprise Co., Ltd.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Sharing a Shell

(Get it here)
Written by Julia Donaldson / Illustrated by Lydia Monks..

This was our very first Julia Donaldson book. Not The Gruffalo, not The Spiffiest Giant in Town, not Room on the Broom. Not any of her more popular books. In fact, when I bought this book, I had never heard of Julia Donaldson before. Yes, Josh was almost 3 before I’d even heard of Julia Donaldson. Mommy fail.
I’d picked up the book because of how pretty the illustrations are. There are glitters, my friends. Glitters. I read through the book. I love the rhyming narrative. I knew that I would enjoy reading this aloud to Josh. I knew that he’d enjoy the story and that he’d enjoy looking at the colorful and pretty pictures. The message about sharing was a good one. Sold!

Josh enjoyed turning the pages, lingering a bit and touching some of the pictures with glitters on them. We’d read it so many times that Josh had most parts memorized. He still enjoys reading this book to this day.
Now, Zoë has discovered the book as well. Every night this week, she has been picking this book to read at bedtime. As it was with Josh, she would softly touch the glitters, marvelling at the texture, while we read to her. After we’re done reading, she’d then get the book from us and would insist on “reading” to us. Filling in with her own words how the story unfolds.

Sharing a Shell book is definitely a treat for booklovers young and old and would make a very good book to start for those children who might not be so interested in reading books. The colorful and cute illustrations, the glitter, the story, and Donaldson’s trademark rhyming narrative are all wrapped up nicely in this little gem of a book.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Mrs. Goodbee’s Interactive Dollhouse (Caring Corners/Learning Curve)

Zoë got a new dollhouse and I have to tell you, it’s been so great since we set it up. She and Josh have been busy playing with it for hours almost every day. We’d gone days without them asking to watch TV or play on the computer --now isn’t that the greatest?
From the website --
Using helpful hints, playful prompts, silly songs, and sound, Mrs. Goodbee Interactive Dollhouse nurtures and inspires positive behavior every day. With twelve adorable rooms to explore and plenty of interactive surprises, there are endless opportunities to practice caring, sharing, and preparing for important, age-appropriate responsibilities.
Two children can play together, as the house unfolds to six rooms on each side--and then folds back for easy storage! Over 400 activities, songs, words, and sounds! Includes girl, baby and doggy.
Watch this 30-sec clip.
I had held off getting a dollhouse for Zoë for a number of reasons. Primarily because with so many toys, I didn’t want to add to the clutter and dollhouses take up a lot of space. Well, Mrs. Goodbee’s Dollhouse is not small –24 inches (h) x 42 inches (w) when opened up, –but the beauty of it is that it “folds” away for easy storage. Folded up, it can be tucked away nicely against the wall (only 14 inches wide and 7.5 inches thick).
Even though I knew that Zoë would be in seventh heaven having her own dollhouse, I held back from getting her one, because whatever toy I get these days will have to be something that both Josh and Zoë could play together. Let me just say how enlightened I was to find that Josh takes as much interest in the dollhouse as Zoë does. This dollhouse can definitely keep both girls and boys occupied for hours.
We had Zoë's friend, L, over for a play date and it was just perfect. The three of them (including Josh) were all playing nicely, without having to fight over which room of the dollhouse to play with. There are plenty of rooms on each side of the dollhouse and 2-4 kids can play comfortably together, without having to crowd around at all.

You can buy Family Packs to add to your dollhouse. There are 12 accessory packs --
  1. Pet Playgroundcollage of family packs
  2. Baking Time
  3. Table Manners
  4. Princess Playdate
  5. Strollin’ with Baby
  6. Helping with Groceries
  7. L’il Miss Poodle
  8. Fix-It Fun
  9. Pajama Party
  10. Family Night
  11. Party Time
  12. A Book at Bedtime

Each accessory pack includes a ‘secret code’ to open up an interactive game on the the Caring Corners website. The accessory packs sell for HK$79.90, HK$119.90, and HK$179.90 for the Small, Medium, and Large Family Packs, respectively.
I just wish that each accessory pack comes with its own container to keep the pieces when playing is done. Also, should you choose to buy different Family Packs at one time, I would suggest that you open the accessory packs one at a time, otherwise it can be overwhelming. We now keep all the various pieces in a separate box. Josh and Zoë’s favorite “scenes” to play out are taking care of the baby (rocking it in its cradle or taking it out for a walk in its stroller), using the washroom (and flushing the toilet –because the toilet makes a real flushing sound!), getting the pets to swing or slide around in the Pet Playground.
I love it that, with the dollhouse, Josh and Zoë act out their scenes and really get into pretend play. Seeing and hearing them do that never fails to bring a smile to my face. I’m tickled with all the stuff they come up with. Sometimes it’s like hearing myself speak when I listen in on them; other times, I just marvel at what they come up with. I guess you could say that the dollhouse entertains me as well! I’m so glad that we have this Mrs. Goodbee’s Interactive Dollhouse –it’s every little girl’s dream dollhouse and best of all, for me, both Josh and Zoë get hours of imaginative play out of it, and I get some ‘me’ time while they’re at it.
Mrs. Goodbee’s Interactive Dollhouse and all its Family Packs are available in Hong Kong through Stepping Stones.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Clever Castle: Clue-Solving Game


Yes, another ThinkFun game. You all know that I am a fan.

This one the first single-player ThinkFun game that I’d bought. I thought Josh might be ready for some “solitaire” type game.

Clever Castle is essentially a pattern matching game. It comes with --

  • 1 playing board
  • 9 tiles (3 of each: Knight, Princess, Dragon in red, yellow, and blue)
  • 40 Mind Challenge cards in a spiral notebook format, organized into sections according to difficulty (10 each of Easy, Medium, Hard, and Super Hard)
  • 1 Welcome Mat to help with organizing the tiles
  • 1 Parent’s Guide
  • 1 Storage Bag

How to play --

It’s fairly simple. The whole objective is to follow the “clues” on the Mind Challenge cards and correctly arrange the tiles in the nine windows on the castle (the game board).

DSC06703 DSC06699

First, you select a Challenge Card and then based on the “clues” there, start filling in the windows of the castle with the correct tiles. Once the windows are all filled up, flip the card over to check if the pattern on your board matches the one on the “answer” card.



The Easy cards are, well, easy. Zoë –who isn’t quite 3 yet, –is able to work her way up to #8 with minimal supervision. Josh quickly whizzed through the cards up to #24 before he decided to stop.


I was expecting that he would probably do maybe 10-15 games, but he was really enjoying himself. I asked him if he likes it. He said, “I don’t like it. I love it! Mommy, it’s even better than playing on the computer or watching TV.” Now that’s saying a LOT.

The clues get trickier and more challenging as one progresses along. Some clues show all the windows and some show only a partial view of the windows, so you’ll have to visualize the other windows on the board to ascertain the right place to put your tiles. Clever Castle helps children learn to problem-solve. Kinda reminds me of the abstract reasoning part of IQ tests.

It says on the box that it’s for ages 5-7, but I daresay you can start at 3. Try to see if your child can follow the clues. When it gets a bit too challenging, you can always get him to simply try copying the pattern seen on the Answer cards.

I love that Clever Castle is simple enough a concept for a child to follow without much supervision from adults. I got at least half and hour of quiet time, allowing me to read my book while Josh worked through the challenge cards. He was so excited each time he completed a pattern and learned that he got it correctly when he checked the Answer page. One other thing I love is that it has a bag for easy storage of the game. No need to keep the box!



Clever Castle is available in Hong Kong in Sogo for HK$159.90. Elsewhere, you can order it from for about US$14.