Book Review: The Mudhogs by Dalton James

Hi there!

When I heard about a bright 8-year old boy who had written and illustrated not one book, but three – I was intrigued. My own daughter has similar aspirations, so I decided to check out Dalton James’ imaginative fiction. And I have to say that I was impressed by what I read!

The Mudhogs tells the story about a clubhouse for a group of three little pigs. Told from the point of view of Fangs, a tick on Piggy’s leg, we hear the tale of how the three pigs deal with a mud shortage. Piggy, Piggles, and Piglet try everything they can think of to make it rain, so that they might make even a little mud. But no rain came.

They tried a rain dance. That didn’t work. They tried to cast a spell. That didn’t work. They even tried putting on a play, complete with thunder and lightning, but that didn’t work either.

Finally they decided they’d go on an adventure in search of mud. None of the towns had any mud. None of the states had any mud. Even the countries they visited were without any mud. But when they got home… they discovered it had been raining while they’d been away and there was plenty of mud for everybody!

Though the artwork was childlike, I was fascinated by the story and the imagination used to create it. My favorite part of the book is when the pigs are traveling and go to the towns of Piggsburg, Hogsbreath, Swineville, and Slopton. As if those weren’t good enough, they then visit the states of Pighoma, Snortesee, New Hog, and Piggselvania. And while you’re still giggling at the first two waves of names, they then go to the countries of Pig of Mud States, Pigsia, Hogico, and Barnia.

It’s obvious that 8-year-old Dalton James has quite a career ahead of him in publishing if he keeps up the great work. He should be an inspiration to kids and parents everywhere to go out on a limb and be creative. You never know who you’ll meet or where you’ll end up. Personally, I’d like to travel to Slopton, Piggselvania, and Barnia. They sound like fun places to visit!

–Fitz

p.s. Check out these other books by Dalton James at Amazon!

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TV Review: Super WHY! and Hansel and Gretel: A Healthy Adventure

Hi all…

Although I’m a parent of two young girls and watch a great deal of PBS programming, I have to admit that until now I’ve not seen any episodes of Super WHY!. I was informed by my daughters that they had seen this show previously, though this was the first I’d even heard of it. Now that I’ve seen it, I can see why it’s popular with their target ages of 3 to 6.

Super WHY! aims to boost literacy by providing multiple styles of learning using fairy tales as the medium. The four main characters or “Super Readers” include Whyatt Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, Princess Pea, and Pig. These four characters either come directly from or are related to characters in popular fairy tales.

Like many of the shows aimed at preschool or pre-kindergarten-aged children, every episode follows a repeated pattern. A story problem is introduced and the Super Readers assemble to solve it by using alphabet, word, spelling, and reading skills. Each clue they find adds one or more letters to a series of blanks that will provide the answer they need.

In Hansel and Gretel: A Healthy Adventure, the Super Readers have to figure out why Red Riding Hood (or just “Red”) has no energy to play with her friends at the park. Could it have something to do with her sweet tooth?

To find the answer, they must explore the story of “Hansel and Gretel.” In the story, they meet the grouchy witch, who lives in a house of cookies and candy and also has issues with having the energy to play with the kids. Again, could the witch’s sweet tooth be causing the problem?

The Super Readers convince the witch to stop nibbling on her house and start snacking on healthy choices like carrots. Red and the witch both start snacking on healthy fruits and vegetables and drinking water instead of soda, which gets them back out and playing again.

At the end of the epsiode, they convinced the witch to change the story so she lived in a house made of healthy snacks instead of one of gingerbread and candy. I thought that was an interesting aspect of the Super Reader’s mission and a way to invest viewers more in the outcome of the show.

My daughters were hooked once the readers entered the story of Hansel and Gretel, which was great to see. And my youngest, entering kindergarten next fall, was following along with the alphabet and word aspects, while my 3rd grader had no issues with the spelling and reading aspects. However, I was pleased to see that it held both of their attentions for the duration of the episode.

I was entertained by the difference between the 3D graphics used for most of the show versus the flat characters used for Hansel, Gretel, and the witch once they were in the storybook. It made it easy to see who was important as they progressed through the story and learned more.

Overall, I think Super WHY! appears to be another great series on PBS. And “Hansel and Gretel: A Healthy Snack” was a fun, educational way to teach kids why eating sugary snacks is bad and healthy snacks is good! Be sure to check it out with your preschoolers and kindergarten kids.

–Fitz

p.s. Check out these SuperWHY! adventures on DVD!

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