Great books for early middle schooler?

January 30, 2013

I love the New York Public Library and get most of the book recommendations for my son from the wonderful librarians they employ.  My son is just finishing up the exciting fantasy adventure series Septimus Heap.  He is reading the 6th book Darkeand the last volume Fyre comes April 16th, 2013.  Today, I asked Rebecca, a (Super Awesome) librarian at Jefferson Market, to give me recommendations on what to read next, based on my son’s enjoyment of Septimus Heap and similar books.  She suggested:

  • Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry, Ridley Pearson and Greg Call – (we are now on book 3 – AWESOME)
  • Last Apprentice by Joseph Delaney, Patrick Arrasmith (came with “it’s spooky and very dark” warning)
  • Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas, Antonio Javier Caparo
  • When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (not a series, it’s a standalone book – I have read this, and it’s pretty good!)
  • Wonder by R.J. Palacio (not a series, it’s a standalone book, and apparently, it’s AMAZING, it was the NAIBA Book of the Year 2012 for Middle Readers) – (I have since read this, and it made me cry.  Great book, very touching.)

Also, see a past post about The Extraordinary Adventures of Ordinary Boy, which is another great book for the 8 – 12 year olds in your life.  We all read this as a family and loved it!

UPDATE 5/29/13: The Books of Umber Trilogy, starting with Happenstance Found by P.W. Cantanese.  I am reading these (just finished book 2 – Dragon Games) and loving them!  Great fantasy action/adventure with good world-building (with some darkness and evil to keep it interesting), for 9-12 year olds!  Strongly recommended!

UPDATE 7/1/14: Dead End in Norvelt and From Norvelt to Nowhere by Jack Gantos are well-written, funny books, and great for kids (especially boys) in the 10-13 age range.  However, they have “A Christmas Story”-esque humor, so it can get a bit inappropriate, a little old fashioned (in the best way possible) and there are guns in the story (I know a lot of people who are sensitive about mentions of guns in kid stories, thus the warning).


How many sheets of normal paper can I send in an envelope with just one stamp?

January 29, 2013

You can send up to 1 ounce via USPS in a regular envelope with one stamp.  This works out to around 5 sheets of “regular” (I used 20 lb 8.5×11) in a #10 (4 1/8 x 9 1/2, “business”) envelope.  That sixth sheet put it over the ounce mark.  How do I know this?  I use an Oxo food scale that I absolutely LOVE!  See the USPS Postage Price Calculator for more info.

What is the opposite of “jump the shark?”

January 19, 2013

My friends Liz, Bibhash, John and I came up with the opposite of “jump the shark” this morning (Saturday, January 19, 2013) at brunch.  It is “reveal the robot,” a reference to Ninjago, Season 1, Episode 7, “Tick Tock.”  Whereas “jump the shark” is the point at which a great television show goes downhill, “reveal the robot” describes the point at which a regular show becomes great.  Example of usage: Ninjago totally revealed the robot in the the episode “Tick Tock.”

On a side note, Ninjago is worth watching.  Watch it in order, and you’ll probably agree. Lego really knows what they are doing, and whoever gave the green light to Ninjago (Lego theme, as well as the television show) was a genius.

Are generic Sonicare brushes as good as brand name?

January 15, 2013

No. I recently tried “Up & Up,” Target’s private label replacement heads for Sonicare series E toothbrushes. They don’t vibrate anywhere near as much as the Sonicare branded heads,  your teeth don’t get as clean, and they suck.


The Sonicare brush is on the left.  The generic from Target is on the right.  They are not made the same way.

The Sonicare brush is on the left. The generic (Up & Up) from Target is on the right. They are not made the same way.

Museum of Math opened in December – should I go?

January 14, 2013

Here’s the short version – if you are a tourist who is in town now, loves math, and is excited about this museum, get yourself to The Museum of Mathematics.  If you are a local, want to be busy for an hour or two, and love math particularly, I’d give it a few more weeks to get settled, and then go on a weekday (if possible).  If you’re looking for something science-y and not specifically only math-oriented and want to spend a day, visit the New York Hall of Science in Queens instead.

Museum of Mathematics, NYC

Museum of Mathematics, 11 East 26th Street (between 5th and Madison), NYC

I went to the Museum of Mathematics on Sunday, January 6, 2013 and was generally impressed.  It’s a loving tribute to mathematics, made by people who managed to raise heaping loads of cash.  They scored big on aesthetics and some of the exhibit detail was wonderful.  Many of the exhibits seem to be geared toward children in the 4th through 8th grade range.

Excellent exhibit detail was presented in basic, intermediate and advanced levels.

Excellent exhibit detail was presented in basic, intermediate and in-depth levels.

There were many hands-on exhibits, and the Enigma Cafe (a place to sit and work out puzzles on the lower level – there is no food served) seemed especially interesting.  However, even though the museum was probably at half capacity (or less) when I went, this puzzle area as well as many of the exhibits felt crowded.  This is why I advise going on a weekday if you can.

Screaming children, lighted floor, well-thought out seating.

Screaming children, lighted floor, well-thought out seating.

Harmony of the Spheres is a hands-on exhibit that makes music.

Harmony of the Spheres is a hands-on exhibit that makes music.

The reason I have suggested waiting a few weeks if you are local is because many of the exhibits were out of order when I was there.  The Museum of Mathematics just opened in December, so they’ll probably get it all up and running soon (I hope).

Many exhibits were unavailable or being repaired during our visit.

Many exhibits were unavailable or being repaired during our visit.

Museum of Mathematics
Open 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., 7 days a week
$15 per adult / $9 per child
Give yourself between 1.5 and 3 hours to visit the museum.

New York Times article about the museum
Live Science Photo Tour

What are people from Monaco called?

January 14, 2013

My son asked me this today.  Citizens of Monaco are called Monégasques.  Also, I knew Monaco was small, but it’s less than one square mile!  Wow.

Best blue cheese?

January 8, 2013

Rogue River Blue Cheese

Rogue River Blue Cheese

The best blue cheese in the world is Rogue River Blue. It’s only made between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice and they have some RIGHT NOW at Whole Foods Chelsea (probably others as well), but not for long. Miss it at your peril.


Do not miss this cheese!

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