Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Prevent Summer Slide and Boredom with These Fun Books and Activity Books from Workman Publishing (Review)

Disclosure: I was sent samples from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All views shared are mine and mine alone.

How's your summer going so far?  Have your kids got to the point that they have run out of things to do yet, and are bored?  If they have already come to you with that pouting look saying, "I'm bored" or "I can't find anything to do," well I have a handful of books, workbooks and activity books from Workman Publishing that will not only keep them busy and having fun, but will have them learning at the same time.  So, it's a win-win for both kids and parents.  You will not be tasked with finding something for them to do, and once they grab one of these books, they will not want to put them down.  How do I know this?  My girls came to me the other day and said they had nothing to do, and I was ready for them.  After handing them the books and workbooks the kind folks at Workman Publishing sent my way recently, they retreated to their rooms and then the couch, to enjoy their new books.  From Paint by Sticker to pinning historical figures against each other to see who will win, kids will be hooked on these books and find themselves getting lost in the fun and excitement and forgetting that they were once bored. And, with the upcoming long holiday weekend and planned family vacations, they books and workbooks will definitely come in handy at keeping kids engaged and entertained for hours.  Don't be surprised if they ask you to get them more books like these once they finish, as they really are fun to do and read.

Here are the books that the kind folks at Workman Publishing recently sent, and that my girls have been enjoying...
(Also available in hardcover)
About this book:

"Your mission: Find Victor Dowd’s missing sketchbook. And discover one of the most unusual stories of World War II.

Meet the 603rd Camouflage Engineers, better known as the Ghost Army. This group of artists and sound engineers were trained to deceive the Germans in World War II with everything from fake tanks to loudspeakers broadcasting the sound of marching troops. And meet Victor Dowd, a real-life sergeant who with his fellow Ghost Army troops fought his way from Normandy, through France, and eventually across the Rhine.

Second in the Spy on History series, it’s a compelling story of a little-known chapter from the war—and a mystery to solve. This hardcover library edition does not include any removable spycraft materials; readers will discover and unravel clues embedded in the text and illustrations to uncover the mystery of Victor Dowd’s missing sketchbook."

Age range
8 - 14
Grade range
5 - 8
Spy on History
Number of pages
Publication date
April 02, 2019

My Thoughts:

I was excited to get my hands on this and another book from the interactive Spy on History series, as my youngest daughter is a huge history buff, and loves to read all things history.  After reading rave reviews and all about these books, I wanted to share them with my girls and see what they thought of them.  

This book is about Victor Dowd, an illustrator and sergeant in the 603rd Camouflage Engineers, during WWII.  Included with the book is a spycraft kit to help readers uncover secret codes.  Both of my girls loved this addition and said it made for a more fun read and experience.  Even my oldest daughter, who is not a big history fan found herself glued to the book and wanting to read it to the end to see what happened, while working with her sister to solve secret codes and mysteries throughout the pages of this middle-grade book.  

My girls really enjoyed this book, and loved the interactive aspect of solving the mystery behind Victor's missing sketchbook, while also learning about WWII and the Ghost Army.  When my girls were done with the book they noticed that there were two other boos available in the series and wanted me to get them so that they could read and enjoy.  Thanks to the folks at Workman Publishing, they sent along another book in the series, "Anna Strong and the Revolutionary War Culper Spy Ring."  

(Also available in hardcover)

Here is more about this book, which also comes with its own skycraft kit to help readers uncover secret codes and help Anna find out who took the Culper Ring.

About this book:

"In a story of suspense and intrigue, Anna Strong and the Revolutionary War Culper Spy Ring explores a little-known chapter of American history—and offers readers a mystery of their own to solve!

Travel back in time to the American Revolution in the thrilling third book in the Spy on History series. Discover the secret Culper Ring, a network of American spies fighting against the British redcoats. Meet historical figures like George Washington and the soon-to-be-infamous Benedict Arnold. And meet Anna Strong, an unsung heroine who found ingenious ways to communicate top-secret messages to her fellow spies—helping to free the American colonies from British rule.

Your mission: Decode Anna Strong’s hidden message and discover the secret assignment she undertook for the Culper Ring. There are clues embedded in the book’s text and illustrations, plus spycraft materials, including a cipher wheel, in an envelope at the beginning of the book."

This book is set up just like the Victor Dowd book.  For the most part, the illustrations that fill the pages of this book are in black and white.  There are a handful of pages that have red color, which seemed to catch the girls' attention and get them excited about solving the mystery.

Both kids who love history and those who may be reluctant readers of history-themed books will enjoy this Spy on History series.  If you find yourself struggling to find an answer or see if you are correct, not to worry, as there is an answer key in the back of each book.  I will definitely be picking up the third book in the series, "Mary Bowser and the Civil War Spy Ring"  I plan to use this as part of our schooling in August, and then will re-read the other two books when we talk further about the Revolutionary War and WWII.

(Also available in hardcover)


In addition to these interactive history story books, I was also sent the Summer Brain Quest workbook for kids who are between 5th and 6th grade.  

More about this book:

"Stop summer slide! Stay summer smart! For kids who just finished 5th grade, this Common Core–aligned workbook will get you back-to-school ready for 6th grade, with hundreds of fun activities, exercises, and games. From Brain Quest, America’s #1 educational bestseller with over 45 million books sold.

Learn all summer long with this personalized, interactive quest! Begin with a map that guides you through a workbook jam-packed with activities based on reading comprehension, writing essays, ancient history, grammar, fractions and decimals, climate, and more, with fun illustrations throughout.

Once you complete an activity, get your stickers and track your progress on the map! Loved by kids, teacher-approved, and parent-trusted, this Summer Brain Quest Workbook also includes bonus challenges and stickers, outside activities, a summer reading list, a Brain Quest mini deck, and more."

My Thoughts:

If you have young children, then you have probably seen these books in bookstores or even recommended by your child's teacher to help prevent summer slump with kids.  I have been using these workbooks as part of our summer review since I started homeschooling the girls.  The workbooks start at Pre-K and go through grade 6.  In addition to the Brain Quest workbooks the also have other fun Brain Quest decks of cards that offer questions and answers to help kids get a smart start on a new grade, as well as review what they have already learned during a current school year. 

I really like this decks and use them as part of our morning warm up lesson to get the girls ready for a day of learning.  And, I have even been known to throw a deck or two into my band to have handy when we are out and about and I need to entertain the girls waiting in a waiting room or at a restaurant.  They think of the questions as challenge questions and will compete against each other to see who can answer the most questions correctly.

In addition to the "between" summer workbooks, Brain Quest also offers whole year books that included curriculum-based exercises and activities in one fun book, that includes all school subjects. 

These workbooks follow common core state standards, and are popular with both teachers and homeschool families.  I use them as fill in work when homeschooling my girls, or on days that things are just slow and girls aren't up for sitting for a whole day of school.  My girls like how the workbooks have a progress map and stickers they get to add to the map as they successfully complete an activity or exercise.  

They love showing off their map full of stickers to their dad and telling him all about the things they have learned.  

Who knew that math, science, social studies and English language arts would be so far?  Brain Quest makes learning fun with these books and their entire product line. I really liked this between 5th ad 6th grade workbook and how it was set up.  It really did challenge the girls and keep them engaged the past few weeks.  By the time they are done with their Brain Quest workbook we will be ready to move on to 5th grade work, and they will already have a good head start on what we will be covering for the year.

You can check out all the Brain Quest workbooks available from Workman Publishing by visiting


About this book:

"Paint a magical world with stickers (including glitter stickers)!
Paint by Sticker Kids: Unicorns & Magic includes everything kids need to create ten vibrant images, including unicorns, a dragon, a princess, and more.

Step 1: Find the sticker. 

Step 2: Peel the sticker. 

Step 3: Place the sticker. Add the next, and the next, and watch your enchanting paintings come to life!  

All the pages are perforated, making it easy to tear out each finished work to frame and share!"

My Thoughts:

This was the first time my girls experienced the Paint by Sticker series from Workman Publishing.  I had seen their Christmas and Halloween Paint by Sticker books, and planned to pick them up for the girls, but then life got in the way, and I forgot.  So, I was happy that the folks at Workman Publishing sent the Paint by Sticker Kids: Unicorns & Magic book for my girls to enjoy.  This particular book includes 10 pictures to bring to life with colorful glitter stickers, and provides hours of fun for kids (and adults) of all ages.  I loved how the pages were perforated, so if you have more than one child, you can pull out a particular sticker picture with its corresponding peel and stick stickers, so that each child can work on their own picture.  

My girls really enjoyed this Paint by Sticker book, and I loved how there was no messy clean up from paints, etc.  And, the addition of the glitter to the stickers, make the pictures pop with color and sparkle. It was so much fun watching the pictures and scenes come to life, as my girls added each sticker. And, when they were done, the girls hung their completed sticker art in their rooms.  The sticker paintings are made of sturdy card stock, so they are strong enough to hang on a wall, add to the fridge, or simply tote around and show off.  As soon as my girls were done with this Paint by Sticker Kids book they asked if I could buy more.  When I went to check out the Workman Publishing website, I couldn't believe how many different Paint by Sticker books they had, that would be great for boys and girls, of all ages, including seasonal books.

Seeing just how much fun my girls had with this sticker book, I will definitely be buying more for my girls, as well as to gift to my nieces and nephews, as well as for my girls to give as part of birthday gifts to their friends.  You can check out all the Paint by Sticker books from Workman Publishing here:


And, if the above books weren't enough to keep my girls busy and entertained, we were also sent a really fun and unique book that lift taps that pins historical figures against one another to see "Who wins?"

More about this book:

"Let’s say Charles Dickens challenges Mother Teresa to a lightsaber duel—they’re both equally fit, so will his superior artistry overcome her advantage in bravery and leadership? Or who wins karaoke—Nelson Mandela or Jane Austen? They certainly both have a way with words, but Mandela’s over-the-top courage might take the day.

Mixing and matching 100 historical figures in 50 competitive categories, from Ping-Pong to climbing Mount Everest, Who Wins?turns history into a compelling game, which means kids learn while having fun in the process. Each of the famous people is given a short bio and ranked in six categories—bravery, leadership, artistry, wealth, wisdom, and fitness.

And because there are no right answers, the reader decides, and in the very act of deciding and justifying the answer, real learning has taken place.
A 2017 YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers."

My Thoughts:

This was a really book to sit down and enjoy with the girls.  Not only did they learn about important figures in history, but they also were able to choose who they wanted to go head to head, and then talk about what they know about each, and who they think would win.  We had some great debates and questioned raised about the different historical figures that fill the pages of this book. And, when all was said and done, everyone was a winner, as they have all left a mark on history and are worth taking time to talk about and learn more about.  I highly recommend this book for homeschool families, teachers, and families who are looking for a unique book that will spark debate and thoughtful discussion with the whole family, surrounding historical figures.  I hope they come out with more books or turn this into a series, as I would definitely buy each and every one up to enjoy with my family.


With summer in full swing, why not consider picking up a few (or all) of these books to share with your kids.  They have really come in handy in keeping my girls entertained, while also learning.  Usually I would get an eye roll when I hand my girls a workbook or book that educational in nature, but they both smiled when they saw the books we were sent from Workman Publishing, and couldn't wait to sit and flip through and enjoy.  You can learn more about these, as well as browse the entire children's book offering from Workman by visiting their website -  While you are there, why not consider ordering new calendars for the upcoming new year.  

Most of their calendars and planners begin on Aug. 1, 2019 and run through 2020

They have an amazing selection of wall, desktop, magnetic, and planner calendars available, with themes to delight kids and adults.  Moms will especially the Mom planner, which will keep your life organized this fall and into the new year, when your kids head back to school and start back at after school programs and sports, etc.

Disclosure: I was sent samples from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All views shared are mine and mine alone.

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