You Should Tour a Mine at Least Once

Everyone should tour a mine at least once in their lifetime. It is a tangible and interesting way to understand the effort, danger and environmental impact that goes into extracting natural resources from the ground that are used in everyday items we find indispensable.

Your cell phone alone contains many natural resources that come out of the ground such as copper, gold, silver, palladium, crude oil, and lithium.

Now, I’m not encouraging you to tour an active mine or to get lost in an abandoned mine. No, no, no. There are plenty of tourism opportunities all around the country and world to take a guided tour of an inactive mine. It’s not only an educational experience, but it’s fun too.

I’ve toured a coal mine in England, a gold mine in Georgia and a zinc mine in New Jersey.

Today I want to tell you about the zinc mine in New Jersey called The Sterling Hill Mining Museum because in addition to being interesting it was also beautiful.

Can a mine be beautiful? I thought parts of this one were, but I’ll let you be the judge.

sterling hill mining museum You Should Tour a Mine at Least Once


Sterling Hill was an active, operating underground zinc mine for 138 years from 1848 to 1986. In that time, more than 11 million tons of zinc ore was extracted from the mine. The zinc ore was found in thick seams up to 2,550 feet below the ground.

The original owner of the mine property was William Alexander who also went by the name of Lord Stirling. In addition to owning several mines, he also served as a general under George Washington during the American Revolutionary War. He is not as well known as many of Washington’s generals, but Washington held him in high esteem. He even tasked Lord Stirling with being in charge of the entire Continental Army for two months while Washington left to meet with Congress over the winter of 1778/79.

Now that the mine has been converted to a museum, The Sterling Hill Mining Museum is a non-profit that aims to tell the story of this particular mine and to “inspire life long learning about earth sciences, engineering, and the responsible use of earth’s nonrenewable resources.” The museum is neither pro-mining or anti-mining and I found that stance to be refreshing from an educational perspective. For more information about this museum’s history or mission, click here.


Zinc is quite the versatile material. U.S. pennies are 98% zinc. Zinc is used in personal care products such as acne medication, anti-itch creams, and in vitamin pills. Zinc is also used to prevent rust. When a metal is galvanized, that means it has been coated with zinc. Zinc oxide is also used in paint and sunblock. And the list goes on for uses of zinc, but you get the idea that it is quite important to our everyday lives.

sterling hill mining museum You Should Tour a Mine at Least Once


The guided tour of The Sterling Hill Mining Museum takes about 2 hours and is broken into 3 parts: Zobel Hall Museum, the mine tour, and Warren Museum of Fluorescence.

Zobel Hall Museum

The Zobel Hall Museum is actually the old Change House for the miners. It is where they changed into and out of their mine clothes. Their mining clothes would be wet and dirty at the end of their shift, so they would put their boots in a basket and hang their shirts and pants from the bottom of the basket. They’d then hoist their basket up into the air to dry overnight.

sterling hill mining museum You Should Tour a Mine at Least Once

The Zobel Hall Museum also holds millions of dollars worth of rocks and minerals, old mining equipment, fossils, and inventions by Thomas Edison.

I was worried this portion of the tour would be boring for my children. I was wrong. The guide gave us a scavenger hunt to do inside the museum (it’s one big room). This actually kept my kids engaged and we learned so much more about the displays in the building this way.

Mine Tour

The bulk of the two hour tour is spent underground in the mine and you will walk through about 1,300 ft. of tunnels. This is not a strenuous walk and most all of the paths are level.

Your guide will take you through the process of how the zinc ore was extracted from the mine. They even covered things related to mine safety and what the miners would do if there was a medical emergency.

At one special point in the tour you will reach the Rainbow Tunnel. The guide is going to turn off the lights and then you will see the rainbow of colors glowing from the tunnel.

It made me think “TREASURE!”

sterling hill mining museum You Should Tour a Mine at Least Once

This is why I think this particular mine was beautiful. The minerals in the Sterling Hill Mine fluoresce when exposed to ultraviolet light. It was the epitome of an “ooh and aah” moment. Every single person on the tour was surprised and delighted by this natural light show from deep inside the earth.

It was magical and something I have not seen in the other mines we’ve toured.

Warren Museum of Fluorescence

If you’re wearing a diamond ring, this is the part of the tour when you will discover if your ring is real or fake! No joke.

More than 700 fluorescent minerals are on display in the Warren Museum of Fluorescence. When the lights are turned out you’ll be able to see your diamond ring as well as the other minerals on display glow. We had a lot of fun picking our favorite minerals.

sterling hill mining museum You Should Tour a Mine at Least Once

And, thankfully, my wedding ring did glow! PHEW!


Rock Discovery Center – The Rock Discovery Center is a great way to learn about the different types of rocks from a guide. You’ll then be able to search and collect the rocks. This activity is only open to the public during limited times, so click here for more information.

Mineral Collecting in the Mine Run Dump – If you’ve always wanted to dig through a giant rock pile looking for treasure, this is the activity for you! They have a pile for local minerals and one for international minerals. There are a bunch of rules for this activity, so click here for more information.

Sluice Mining – Sluicing is how prospectors panned for gold. You can purchase a bag of sand and then run it under water to see what pre-loaded gems and minerals are hiding inside! For hours and pricing click here.


Here are some helpful tips we gleaned from our visit that you might help you when planning your trip.

Accessibility – The mine tour is wheelchair and stroller accessible, but I think that should be asterisked. There was a family with a stroller on our tour and it wasn’t the easiest maneuvering. The mine tunnels are hard-packed, but aren’t necessarily smooth and there were puddles in places. You’re also in tight quarters with a lot of people.

Sorry for the bad photo, but you get the point… If you’re unsure about conditions, I’d recommend calling the mine and asking your specific questions.

sterling hill mining museum You Should Tour a Mine at Least Once

Remember This is a Non-Profit Organization – For some odd reason we happened to visit on a day and time when every other tourist in New Jersey also decided to tour the mine. It was record turnout. Instead of turning people away, the museum folks somehow wrangled more guides (I think they were museum volunteers) and managed to give every visitor a great experience. Was it a bit chaotic until everyone was organized? Yes. But did the staff/volunteers handle the experience well? Yes. So, remember to be kind and patient because they do want you to have a great experience.

Young Children – Just a note of caution on taking the mine tour with young children. First, the tour is long at 2 hours. Make sure everyone uses the restroom! Second, there are moments of darkness on this tour. There was a toddler on our tour who was very unhappy (and understandably so) every time the lights were turned off. He started screaming and when we were in the mine that meant those screams echoed. I felt bad for the parents because it wasn’t like you could easily step out of the mine to calm a terrified child. Third, the parents of young children had to do a lot of wrangling to keep their kids by their side and quiet the entire time. I think it goes without saying that it is ill-advised to let kids run free in a mine. My point is that these parents did it and everyone survived, but I don’t know how enjoyable it was for them.

Mineral Dump and Sluicing – If you want to collect rocks and do the sluicing, keep in mind that these attractions close at 3:30. If you arrive for a 1 p.m. tour that lasts 2 hours, you’ll only have 30 minutes for these other attractions. If you are taking the 1 p.m. tour, consider arriving early in order to do these activities first.

Dress Appropriately – We visited in the summer when the temperature in New Jersey can rival that of Hades. Do yourself a favor and bring a sweatshirt. It’s around 56° F in the mine, so if you’re used to 90° F, this is going to feel COLD. Also, wear closed toe shoes. It is just safer.

On Site Amenities – There is food available on site and a gift shop. I can’t vouch for the food, but we did buy a lot of rocks in the gift shop!

sterling hill mining museum You Should Tour a Mine at Least Once


If you want to learn more about fluorescence and phosphorescence, this site is helpful.

If you want to see if there is a mine in your state open for tours, you can check out the list the National Mining Association keeps on their website. It’s not a comprehensive list, but it is a start.


A great deal of what I know about mining has come from hearing news reports of unsafe mining conditions, miners trapped in a mine, lost mining jobs, or the negative health effects of mining.

Does visiting one mine as a tourist suddenly make me an expert on this topic? Heck no.

That’s the point.

Everyone should tour a mine at least once because it is an eye-opening experience. You realize how much there is to learn about this topic. You’re digging into the dark recesses of your mind to try and remember what you learned in geology class. You’re suddenly thankful that you have a nice, boring office job where the most danger you might encounter on any given day is a paper cut. You’re also confronted by the harsh environmental realities that have to be reconciled with the fact that our world as we know it does not function without mining.

Our family travels to learn because it is fun and engaging. It also makes us think about the world we are living in and that is invaluable.

Did my kids ponder this issue as deeply as I did? Of course not. They both decided mining wasn’t the career for them, but they were super happy about all the rocks they selected as souvenirs. I call that a win.

Go visit a mine. You’ll be happy you did.

Here are some other travel posts you might enjoy!

Travel: Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library – Should you take kids?

Visiting Ireland: Talking Statues

10 Must See Places in Ireland if you Like Castles and Nature

Travel: Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

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Books My Kids Are Reading Part 11

It has been longer than usual since my last “Books My Kids Are Reading” post.

We’re still consuming stacks and stacks of books, but not as many that I’m reading out loud to the kids. In fact, there are only three in this list that I read aloud to the kids and there’s a reason for that.

My 3rd grader needed to work on reading comprehension. Since I am a sucker for reading “just one more page” when the kids ask, it was cutting into his nightly independent reading time.

We did a nighttime reset so that he has a solid 25 – 30 minutes of independent reading time. When he’s done reading I ask him about what he read, the plot points, the main characters, etc. It seems to be working as he’s pulled up his reading comprehension score considerably. If your child’s school scores reading comprehension by having a teacher ask the child verbal questions and your child hates to be put ‘on the spot’ then this technique might help.

My daughter is in 6th grade and she’s writing a book, so if she has all of her homework done that is what she’s been spending her extra time doing at night. She’s created an entire world for her book characters and it’s fascinating to me to see her brain working this way.

Here are the books my kids are reading or have read that we recommend. For reference, my son is 8-years-old and in 3rd grade. My daughter is 11-years-old and in 6th grade.


Unbelievably Boring Bart by James Patterson

If you have a child who thinks being a gamer or YouTube star is a completely legitimate career path, then this is the book for them!

My 8-year-old son willing read this book on his own and I consider that a small miracle. Online games and apps are one of his favorite things in the world, so the subject matter was perfect for him.

The main character, Bart, is the kind of kid that doesn’t fit in with any of the cool kids. In fact, they sometimes pick on him. What these kids don’t know is that in his spare time, Bart has written a phone app that becomes the hottest new game in town. Everyone is playing his game!

But should he tell them that he created it? He could become popular if he does. That’s the dilemma.

unbelievably boring bart books my kids are reading books for kids

Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders

I almost bought this book for Christmas and now regret not doing so because we’ve renewed it from the library three times! It’s the perfect book to pick up if you (or your child) only have 5 minutes and want to learn about some obscure place or thing in the world.

Atlas Obscura is not a children’s book, but fluent readers should be able to handle most of the words. They do publish a children’s version of this book.

We use this book as a way to dream about our next travel adventure and to learn about the quirky things that can be found in various countries around the world.

atlas obscura books my kids are reading books for kids

Dog Diaries: A Middle School Story by James Patterson with Steven Butler

As I keep mentioning, I have a hard time finding fiction books that my 8-year-old son is interested in reading.

Dog Diaries is a new series from James Patterson that I thought might peak his interest. Plus, it had just the right ratio of pictures to text that isn’t intimidating.

dog diaries by james patterson










I know he liked the book because he read the entire thing without complaining. He did say it was a little weird because the story is written from the dog’s perspective. One of the “weird” things is that the dog keeps a journal hidden inside its fur.

Where else would a dog keep a journal?  

dog diaries books my kids are reading books for kids


The Darkdeep by Ally Condie and Brendan Reichs

This is one of the last books I read aloud to both kids. It was really engaging if you like a bit of suspense, mystery and science fiction. I will be shocked if this book is not made into a movie because the action scenes are perfect for the big screen. It’s definitely written for middle school-aged kids, but my 8-year-old enjoyed listening too.

Here’s the gist of the book from my perspective…

After a bullying incident, a group of kids find themselves on an uninhabited island. In the middle of the island is a stranded houseboat. That’s weird enough, but it’s what’s under the houseboat that sets off a chain of events that spirals out of control. There’s a magic well and if you jump into it, the well will conjure up whatever is on your mind: a purple bear, your favorite cartoon characters, your worst nightmares.

It’s up to the kids to figure out how to rein in the magic they unleashed.

the darkdeep books my kids are reading books for kids

As a parent, the only thing I thought was unnecessary in the book was a subplot that included some boy/girl jealousy. These type of relationship dynamics get introduced in middle school books quite often. However, it didn’t stop the book from being a page-turner for all of us.

Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe by Jo Watson Hackl

Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe is a tender, poignant book about love and family that my daughter and I read together.

The story contains wilderness survival, treasure hunting, and the realities of life with a parent with mental health issues. You’d be hard-pressed to not have empathy for the main character because she is so relatable and you know there are countless kids in the world dealing with the same emotions.

From the publisher:

“How far would you go to find something that might not even exist? All her life, Cricket’s mama has told her stories about a secret room painted by a mysterious artist. Now Mama’s run off, and Cricket thinks the room might be the answer to getting her to come back. If it exists. And if she can find it”

The Name of this Book Is Secret (The Secret Series, Book 1) by Pseudonymous Bosch

My 11-year-old daughter read the entire Secret Series and LOVED it. She did say there are some intense moments in the books, so if your kiddo likes to keep things light-hearted this might not be the series for them.

The intensity has been described by online reviewers as Indiana Jones-type scenes where one of the child characters might be sacrificed (they are saved, don’t worry). If your child likes Harry Potter or Percy Jackson, they will probably enjoy this series.

Here’s the book description from the publisher:

“Warning: this description has not been authorized by Pseudonymous Bosch. As much as he’d love to sing the praises of his book (he is very vain), he wouldn’t want you to hear about his brave 11-year old heroes, Cass and Max-Ernest. Or about how a mysterious box of vials, the Symphony of Smells, sends them on the trail of a magician who has vanished under strange (and stinky) circumstances. And he certainly wouldn’t want you to know about the hair-raising adventures that follow and the nefarious villains they face. You see, not only is the name of this book secret, the story inside is, too. For it concerns a secret. A Big Secret.”

the name of this book is secret books my kids are reading books for kids

If you know one book won’t be enough, here’s the link to The Secret Series Complete Collection.

Save Me a Seat (Scholastic Gold) by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan

I love seeing what books my 11-year-old daughter picks out on her own. She ends up with an eclectic mix.

Save Me a Seat is about two kids. The first is a boy who moves to the U.S. from India. The second is a kid who has lived in the same town his entire life, but his best friends moved away. These two kids don’t think they have anything in common, but they do – the school bully.

This book is lauded as one that covers issues of friendship, cultural differences, individuality and fitting in.

My daughter said the book made her feel good at the end. She hasn’t experienced bullying, but she has often been the new kid and could feel empathy for the characters.

save me a seat books my kids are reading books for kids

Pie by Sarah Weeks

This is the third book by Sarah Weeks that my daughter read in the course of about a month! Weeks is a consistently good author for this 9 – 12-year-old age group.

From the publisher:

“When Alice’s Aunt Polly, the Pie Queen of Ipswitch, passes away, she takes with her the secret to her world-famous pie-crust recipe. Or does she? In her will, Polly leaves the recipe to her extraordinarily fat, remarkably disagreeable cat, Lardo . . . and then leaves Lardo in the care of Alice.

Suddenly, the whole town is wondering how you leave a recipe to a cat. Everyone wants to be the next big pie-contest winner, and it’s making them pie-crazy. It’s up to Alice and her friend Charlie to put the pieces together and discover the not-so-secret recipe for happiness: Friendship. Family. And the pleasure of doing something for the right reason.”

Small Spaces by Catherine Arden

Small Spaces can best be described as creepy, but has almost all 5-star reviews and has been placed on several “best” lists by libraries and publishers.

The main character in Small Spaces is an 11-year-old math whiz. She’s retreated into books after her mother’s death. She comes across a book that tells a story similar to the scary ones you tell around the campfire at night. Then her school bus breaks down in the spot where this book supposedly takes place and the events that transpire seem very similar to what happened in her book. Are you scared yet?

My daughter loves to be a little bit scared. The ghost story kind of scared. The kind of scared where you are on the edge of your seat in anticipation of what’s going to happen next.

When I asked my daughter to review Small Spaces she said, “You shouldn’t read this book if you get scared easily, but it is a good book. There’s no blood, just walking scarecrows.”

Oh, just walking scarecrows. That’s reassuring. Haha!

small spaces books my kids are reading books for kids

So B. It by Sarah Weeks

So B. It was made into a movie in 2016 and has an all-star cast including Alfre Woodard, John Heard and Cloris Leachman.

The story is about a girl with a disabled mother who goes on a journey to learn about their past. My daughter said it helped her understand what life might be like if your parent wasn’t able to take care of you because of a mental disability.

Definitely check out the movie trailer…

Soof by Sarah Weeks

Soof is the epilogue to So B. It, but can be read as a stand-alone book. I don’t think it has been made into a movie – yet!

soof by sarah weeks










From the publisher…

“All her life, Aurora has heard stories about Heidi and all the good luck she brought Aurora’s family. Aurora, though, doesn’t feel very lucky. The kids at school think she’s weird. And she’s starting to think her mom thinks she’s weird, too. Especially compared to Heidi.

On the eve of a visit from Heidi, more bad luck hits Aurora’s family. There’s a fire in their attic, destroying a good part of their house. And, even worse, Aurora’s beloved dog goes missing. Aurora and her family have always believed in soof — Heidi’s mom’s word for love. But sometimes even when soof is right there in front of you, you still need to find it — and that’s exactly what Aurora is going to do.”

That’s it for this round!

As always, I’m happy to learn about other books my kids might enjoy! Do share!

P.S. If you need to reference these books in the future, I have added the books from this post to my Shop page and I’m working on adding the books from the other posts too. It’s tedious work and, frankly, I’m not good at making myself do it!

Here are past posts on children’s books we LOVE:

  1. Books My Kids Are Reading Part 10
  2. Books My Kids Are Reading Part 9
  3. Books My Kids Are Reading Part 8
  4. Books My Kids Are Reading Part 7
  5. Books My Kids Are Reading Part 6
  6. Books My Kids Are Reading Part 5
  7. Books My Kids Are Reading Part 4
  8. Books My Kids Are Reading Part 3
  9. Books My Kids Are Reading Part 2
  10. Books My Kids Are Reading Now (Part 1)
  11. Two Children’s Books That Made My Eyes Leak – Cried my eyes out. Still my favorite books.
  12. Star Wars Phonics Books – These worked miracles at encouraging my son to read.

Affiliate links to Amazon used in this post. If you shop using my links, I get credit. 

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An Original Poem for Poem In Your Pocket Day

Tomorrow is Poem in Your Pocket Day.

I think more of us are into poetry than we might realize. Many of those short sayings that get passed around on social media are actually poems or portions of poems.

A perfect example of this is one of my favorite poems by William Butler Yeats.

Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven by W.B. Yeats

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

That last line is very recognizable from modern culture, but Yeats published the poem in 1899.

My son’s school is participating in Poem in Your Pocket Day. Every student is writing down a poem – an original poem or one from their favorite poet – on a piece of paper and will carry it around during the school day. At various points during the day, the principal will announce over the loudspeaker that it is time to switch poems.

Doesn’t that sound like fun?

It’s a little bit like freeze tag with poetry!

Imagine if you were at work or in the bank or grocery store and could switch poems with someone. Talk about a fun way to connect! We could learn so much about people that way.

My kids have been writing amazing poems in school, but they did not want to share them with you. I begged, I pleaded. I considered bribery.

They said, “Mom! You’re embarrassing us.”

It won’t be the last time, kids!

Then one of my children said, “Fine! Here’s a poem…”

And with a twinkle in their eye and a smirk on their face began to recite:

“Roses are red.
My feet are tickly
Let me just say…
That escalated quickly!”

Uh. Not what I had in mind, but I love how this child can rhyme on the fly!

I thought a poem of introspection would be more appropriate.

The original poem I am posting today was not written by me. This poem was written by my mom in 1999 and was shared during her funeral service in 2004.

I do not know what prompted her to write this poem. The first time I recall reading it was after she died. It is clearly about some sort of adversity she faced and her struggle to rely on her religious faith to see her through a difficult time.

i have something to say poem by ann l olsson 1999 original poem

There is something incredibly eerie about finding a poem from a deceased person titled “I Have Something to Say.” If anyone could speak from the grave, it would be my mother!

On a lighter note, my son has selected a classic poem from his favorite poet, Shel Silverstein, to take to school.

Do you remember this poem?

Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me Too. by Shel Silverstein

Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me too
Went for a ride in a flying shoe.
“What fun!”
“It’s time we flew!”
Said Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me too.

Ickle was captain, and Pickle was crew
And Tickle served coffee and mulligan stew
As higher
And higher
And higher they flew,
Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me too.

Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me too,
Over the sun and beyond the blue.
“Hold on!”
“Stay in!”
“I hope we do!”
Cried Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me too.

Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle too
Never returned to the world they knew,
And nobody
Knows what’s
Happened to
Dear Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me too.

I can’t tell you how many conversations we have had about what happened to Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me too! I remain hopeful about their fate.

My son has known about Poem in Your Pocket Day for a couple of weeks. He has been reading poetry every night for the last seven days in order to decide which poem to take to school. He’s really into it and I’m so happy he gets to have this experience at school. I can’t wait to hear all about his day!

If you’d like more ideas on how you can participate in Poem in Your Pocket Day, you can visit

P.S. Shel Silverstein books make great gifts! We have A Light in the Attic and Where the Sidewalk Ends.

If you have an original poem or a favorite poem to share, please do! I’d love to read it. I know the topics on this little part of the internet are quite varied, so thank you for reading along and sharing part of your day with me.

If you have more time, I have more posts! 

Kids Write the Funniest Things

How I Accidentally Got My Kids Excited for College

Chocolate Peppermint Schnapps Cake

Zero Gravity Chair Repair on the Cheap

*affiliate links in this post*

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Books My Kids Are Reading Part 6

Books, books and more books!

Welcome back to what has become an on-going series sharing the children’s books my kids and I are reading.

Before I get to the list of books we’ve enjoyed recently, I want to show you a neat booklet our local Irish library system publishes. It is a reading guide for different age groups from toddlers up to young adults. It includes both fiction and non-fiction recommendations.

The library must have a fairly robust budget to produce this booklet and I have no complaints about that!

The reading guide is compiled by a group of ‘book doctors’ who are all children’s book specialists. They have backgrounds in writing, editing, library science, bookselling or literature. Some of the book doctors have masters or doctorate degrees.

One of the book doctors is the reader-in-residence for Dublin City Libraries. How do I get that job?!?!

The book doctors don’t operate in a vacuum. They hold clinics throughout the year to meet with young people to get their feedback on what they enjoy reading.

As far as literacy and community engagement goes, I think this is a very worthwhile endeavor.

Now on with the show!

Here are the recently read books my kids, ages 7 and 10, would give two thumbs up!

Wed Wabbit by Lissa Evans

This book was such an unexpected surprise.

It started out with a pretty horrific scene. You know how you tell your kids NEVER to chase a ball into the street? Yeah. Well, something like that happened. I was thinking, “Oh no! This book is going to be so dark and terrible. What have I done?”

Yet, it wasn’t. It was such a strange, creative tale. It was filled with creatures who only spoke in verse, so it made reading it a lot of fun. My kids kept guessing what would happen next. It was a great adventure story with a strong bit of moral and emotional closure in the last chapter.

Thankfully, the book had a completely happy ending, which is how I like books to end!

The Curse of Herobrine: The Ultimate Minecraft Comic Book Volume 1 by Zack Zombie Comics

If you order this book and know nothing about Minecraft, this book will make no sense to you. You’ll be a hero, but you’ll have no idea why. You’ll be asking yourself, “What in the world is going on with this crazy Minecraft thing? These creatures look evil and why are there so many blocks?”

Just go with it. I know a little about Minecraft because my kids play and I still ask myself these things.

We’ve had The Curse of Herobrine for awhile (It was my daughter’s book. Minecraft is equally loved by girls and boys.), but just recently my son picked it up and this happened one morning…

I seriously had to check and see if the sky was falling.

He still reads out loud, so I heard the entire book for the umpteenth time. Then he asked me for the next two books in the series and he never asks me for books.

You can bet I jumped on that opportunity! A few days later these arrived:

Steve and the Swamp Witch of Endor: The Ultimate Minecraft Comic Book Volume 2 (An Unofficial Minecraft Comic Book)


Minecraft: The Wither Attacks! – The Ultimate Minecraft Comic Book Volume 3 (A Graphic Novel)

Even though I don’t “get” the story line of these books, I have found something to enjoy! These particular graphic novels have a lot of characters, so we each picked a different character to read out loud. I encourage my kids to read in the character’s voice. So if the character is an old man, use an old man voice. If the character is a big tough guy, use that kind of voice.

It takes a different level of reading comprehension to not only read the words, but to read them in character and to know when it is your turn to read. While my kids think it’s just a fun thing we do (and it is), there’s also some skill building going on too.

The Puppy Who Wanted a Boy by Jane Thayer

The kids’ grandma introduced me to this story and it is the most darling Christmas book.

Fair warning – it may make you want to cry, it is so sweet.

It is about a puppy who wants a boy for Christmas. He tries so hard to find one, but it does not go well. It seems all the boys are taken by other dogs. The puppy is exhausted and ready to give up and then an amazing thing happens!

I don’t want to spoil the ending…that’s the tearjerker part!

This book doesn’t appear to be in print any longer, but you can buy used copies online. Ours was used, but in great shape. If you do buy it, it will be one you’ll want to keep. The story is as good now as the day it was written in 1958! If you see it at the library, definitely check it out!

Incredible Incas (Horrible Histories) by Terry Deary

This is the second Horrible Histories book we’ve read. I’m STILL surprised the kids enjoy them so much because they are fairly wordy and full of hard names and dates.

Perhaps I’m underestimating my kids!

The author does a really good job of writing in a way that grabs their attention though. The Incas did some pretty terrible, disgusting things with urine and, of course, my kids thought that was fascinating.

This book also introduced them to how diabolical the Spaniards were in taking over the Incan empire. This is important because history is often presented in a very one-sided way and in this case, both the Incas and the Spaniards did terrible things to each other.

I don’t know that a kid would be super excited to get this book for Christmas, but if you want to introduce them to a version of history that isn’t dry and boring, this series fits that bill. We are currently reading our third Horrible Histories book about the Greeks.

Star Wars: Jedi Academy, Return of the Padawan (Book 2) by Jeffrey Brown

If you have a kid who is interested in Star Wars, this book will be right up their alley.

It follows Roan, a kid who starts middle school at a Jedi Academy. The book is told from his perspective and is an interesting mix of part diary, part comic book, part newspaper, part letters from home.

Some of the pages are pretty text heavy for my 7-year-old, but this wouldn’t bother older kids at all. As far as the middle school setting goes – there are a few references to liking a girl, but nothing that, so far, has seemed inappropriate for either of my kids. 

While it’s not completely mandatory to start with book one in this series, it will make a lot more sense to read Star Wars: Jedi Academy first. I think there are at least 4 books, so far, in the series.

If your kiddo loves Star Wars, but is still a beginning or reluctant reader, this set of Star Wars Phonics Books was INCREDIBLE and would be a good alternative to the Jedi Academy books.

Tassie and the Black Baron by Katie Roy

I’ve always wanted to describe a book as a ‘wild romp’ and I think I’ve finally found a book where I can bust out that phrase!

Time travel. A historical setting. A clever heroine. All of these things can be found in this book.

If you’ve ever gone on a boring tour of a castle or a historic home, you’ve probably looked at those old portraits on the wall and wondered what life might have been like hundreds of years ago. Well, now imagine that you got sucked back into that time period and were needed to save the day! That’s this book!

My kids were always surprised by the main character’s creative problem solving skills and I love a book that keeps them (and me) guessing and laughing.

Matilda by Roald Dahl

I’m a wee bit embarrassed to admit that this Matilda book came from a McDonald’s Happy Meal. However, this is one Happy Meal “toy” I am glad to keep.

Any Roald Dahl book is good and this one should be on your reading list. Don’t just let your kids watch the movie!

The Invisible Man’s Socks by Alex Shearer

The premise for this book is wild. A class goes on a field trip to a museum of horrors. Think of things like the poison pen, the hair from Bigfoot, vampire teeth, etc. All the things we like to pretend are real, but aren’t. Or are they?

The kids are told NOT TO TOUCH, but of course, everyone, including the teachers touch the museum relics.

That’s when the weird things start happening. Figuring out what is happening, why and how to reverse the damage is the journey the characters will embark on.

We had great fun trying to guess what was happening to each character and who they might be turning into. I could have done without the character who put on the strangler’s gloves though.

The one drag I found about this book is that there were a lot of characters, so the author kept repeating some basic information about each one. This made the book a bit more tedious to read out loud. My kids didn’t seem to notice though.

That’s it for this round!

As always, I’m happy to learn about other books my kids might enjoy! Do share!

Here are past posts on children’s books we LOVE

  1. Books My Kids Are Reading Part 5
  2. Books My Kids Are Reading Part 4
  3. Books My Kids Are Reading Part 3
  4. Books My Kids Are Reading Part 2
  5. Books My Kids Are Reading Now (Part 1)
  6. Two Children’s Books That Made My Eyes Leak – Cried my eyes out. Still my favorite books.
  7. Star Wars Phonics Books – These worked miracles at encouraging my son to read.

Affiliate links to Amazon used in this post. Thanks for your support. You guys rock! 

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Kid Wisdom: Everyday Superpowers

Picture it.

The kids and I are on a packed commuter train at 8:27 a.m.

We’re standing, of course, because it’s a Monday morning and everyone has to get to work on time on a Monday. By Friday they won’t care as much and the train will be less crowded.

I’m wearing my son’s backpack because 2nd grade homework is HEAVY and holding my own backpack with my left hand. With my right hand I’m holding onto one of the vertical bars to keep my balance as the train stops and starts.

The kids are clustered next to me attempting whatever movement they can get away with in a packed train car without getting the death glare from yours truly.

You might not know this, but packed trains get hot. Hot trains mean people start sweating. Sweaty people mean the train car is going to smell. Smelly train cars mean one of my children is going to loudly mention the train car STINKS while demonstrating its stinkiness by plugging their nose and gesturing wildly.

Despite all the people, the train is pretty quiet. No one talks to the strangers they see every day. Earbuds are in. Newspapers are read. Social media is given its likes, loves and shares. There’s a middle-aged man playing Pokémon Go on his phone. The young guy in a suit is eating his second apple. I know it’s his second because I saw him put the core of the first one in his pocket.

Without an inkling of warning, my 7-year-old stops poking his sister on the sleeve, looks up at me and says, “Mom, I think every person has a superpower. They just might not know it yet because it’s way deep down inside them.” He points to his belly as he says this. Then he continues,“They need to believe in themselves so it can come out, you know?”

Kids always pick the best moments for a deep conversation, don’t they?

My son, with the innocence of youth, was initially talking about comic book superhero-type powers. I didn’t want to crush his dreams because I too think it would solve a lot of problems if we could teleport and this world needs people who dream big.

However, he had voiced a truth so profound that I wanted to connect his insight to something tangible in the here and now.

So we talked about what everyday superpowers might look like: generosity, kindness, perseverance, listening, teaching, empathy, standing up to bullies.

We talked about his best friend in Georgia who can run really fast. That’s a pretty cool superpower, but it’s what he does with his superpower that makes it special. He encourages others on his track team to run fast too. To not give up. To finish the race even when they are tired. This friend is using his superpower for good when he could just as easily use it for evil with arrogance and conceit.

Then just like that it was 8:32 a.m. and the train pulled up to our station. Happy to have arrived at our destination, we fought our way out against the tide of people rushing in.

Then my 7-year-old, gesturing in general to the outdoors, said the second most profound thing of the morning.

“It sure smells better out here.”


P.S. If there is someone out there that doesn’t believe they have a superpower – that they can shine in some way in their lives – I’d be happy to introduce them to my 7-year-old. He’ll remind them that way down deep they certainly do.

Thanks for spending time with me today. If you have another minute, I have another post to share. 

Friday Funnies #3

Moving to Ireland: Human Kindness is Overflowing

Mom, Do We Hate Donald Trump?

Mothering Without a Mother

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