Our Favorite Books to Try this Winter

My mother kept the Christmas decorations in the attic, where the heat escaped and you had to turn your head hard to the side to fit under the ceiling. We had three boxes full, containing colorful lights, wreaths, and crooked ornaments made from our little hands while in preschool. My favorite was a long garland with electric bells that would begin a carol at one end of the line and then pass the song along to a random bell somewhere further down; we used to wrap it around our banister and run up and down the garland trying to guess from which bell the music would play next.

However, the holiday season would never truly begin until my mother would unpack from the boxes our small library of Christmas books and arrange them on the coffee table. There, The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg would usher in the season’s sense of magic and wonder. And Santa Cows by Cooper Eden would… well, that one was a bit odd, I admit, but it truly was the most cherished Christmas book of my midwestern family.

Books were one of the best ways my family celebrated winter. They allowed us to snuggle in our wool socks on the couch and laugh and think and learn what the holidays were all about. In an effort to celebrate the season and share good books with good people, here is a selection of holiday stories from the Novel Effect shelves this winter:

 

The Snowy Day

If any book perfectly captures the sense of joy and excitement of freshly fallen snow, it is Ezra Jack Keats’s Caldecott winner, The Snowy Day. Peter, the story’s protagonist with a red snowsuit, crunches and struts and slides in the snow, building snowmen, making angels, and exploring every way his imagination can think to play in it. The narrative, uneventful and unforced, allows for Peter’s delight to flourish and to represent something universal and genuine. For those who have not read this beautiful story, enjoy this version narrated by LeVar Burton.

 

Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns

Hena Khan’s book of rhyming verses and lush illustrations demonstrates the importance of celebrating your family and your faith. The young female narrator uses a range of splendid colors to identify and introduce significant components of her life. The radiant orange of her henna designs illuminate a two-page spread, while the gentle ripples of her mother’s sapphirine hijab stand out from a powder blue background. This book is beautiful and enriching for a family of any faith to read year round.

 

Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins

Taking inspiration from folklore, the story of the Maccabees, and Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, Eric A. Kimmel manages to strike the right balance between spiritual and spooky in this entertaining tale about Hershel, the itinerant prankster. Determined to thwart any Hanukkah celebrations, a horde of goblins prove worthy antagonists for Hershel as they become increasingly vile and repulsive on each successive night. However, they forget that Hershel has some tricks up his sleeves. Armed with an egg, some pickles, and his clever wit, Herschel sets out to rescue the town and vanquish the goblins from the synagogue. Celebrate the Festival of Lights this year with Hershel and his thrilling adventure.

 

The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming

As Lemony Snicket observes, “Nearly everything in this world is born screaming, and the latke was no exception…” His main character’s outcry begins in a frying pan but continues as he meets Christmas decorations painfully oblivious of Hanukkah. The latke’s ire leads to humorous explanations of the holiday and a defense for potato pancakes, until he is eventually recognized by an understanding—and hungry—family. This hilarious book is a great way to gain perspective on the holiday season and to celebrate the Festival of Lights.

 

Owl Moon

Wordlessly, a father and daughter walk through the cold New England snow, hoping to catch a glimpse of a Great Horned Owl. Their adventure, told through Jane Yolen’s patient prose and John Schoenherr’s gentle watercolor illustrations, embodies a winter night’s magical ability to leave you both at peace and full of wonder. Best read by a warm fire with the winds howling outside your window, this book is perfect for bedtime during the holiday season.

 

You can find all these titles in the Novel Effect library with soundscapes to get you in the spirit: http://apple.co/2uQXDod

5 Holiday Break Activities to do as a Family

When the last bell rings at your kid’s school before break, to them it means one thing only: freedom!  Many kids would be perfectly happy to spend a good chunk of that time watching Netflix or playing video games, so turn to old-fashioned, inexpensive activities to limit screen time. They might bemoan the idea at first, but before you know it, they’ll be absorbed in their own imagination and the magic of quality time together!

Holiday memories are some of the most special that kids hold onto for a lifetime. Here are a few ideas to keep in your arsenal of activities this holiday break, Moms & Dads:

1. Build a Blanket Fort

The simple things can remind us what is important, and that includes revisiting activities that never go out of style. Pull out those sheets, round up the dining chairs, and turn the den into an epic fort. Add panache by stringing white lights inside. Pretend you’re on a camping adventure or read books together with the help of our app and bond under the “stars.”

2. Have a Giving Party

The holidays are a time to give thanks and, even more importantly, to give. It is a wonderful opportunity to teach your children about being charitable to fellow family members, the community, or even complete strangers. An excellent way to give back beyond monetary donations is by creating care packages for our armed forces stationed overseas or your local homeless shelter. Be sure to check online for what is acceptable to pack – not all items are accepted. Make a festive party out of it by inviting their friends over, setting up an assembly line, playing holiday music and serving yummy treats. There’s no doubt everyone will be feeling the holiday spirit!

3. “Lights” Show

Every family seems to put their blood, sweat, and tears into their holiday decorations. For every Christmas Vacation-esque house, there is a dad just itching for people to see the lights. What better way to spend your holiday together by seeing what your neighborhood has in store? Get bundled up and go on a neighborhood stroll or drive. Bring hot chocolate, pick your favorites, and enjoy a moment in the present with your family.

4. Competition

If your family is competitive, maybe it is time to take old traditions to a new level. Plan a Christmas cookie baking and decorating contest. Alternatively, how about turning your tree de-trimming into a playful game that kids will love (and you get some much-needed assistance). Give each child a small box or bucket and see who can collect the most ornaments in a certain period. A little competitions can be fun!

5. Ornament Making

Little and big kids alike will enjoy this one! If you have never made ornaments before, it can be a fun way to sit around the table and tell stories to each other while you explore your creative side. For the little ones, you can start with easy ornaments with foam and pipe cleaner. For older kids, you can make glass ball ornaments with paint or stuff them with glitter. Make a theme for each year so as they get older your family can look back on memories made.

……………

Sometimes over the holidays, it can be easy to plop in front of the TV and zone out to endless Christmas movie reruns and football, but in several years those moments will not be the ones you necessarily remember. Being active with your kids, engaging, creating, talking, reading…. those are the times your kids reap the most rewards and the ones all of you will cherish for years to come!

Storytime at Mary’s Place

Some of the Novel Effect team had the honor of joining the residents of Seattle’s Mary’s Place for a storytime! After reading a few stories with magic of the Novel Effect app, the team joined the kids in making their own reindeer antlers.

We had a great time reading and making magic together and look forward to returning! If you are interested in having the Novel Effect team do a charitable reading for your non-profit, please contact Lucas at lucas@noveleffect.com.

Want to try the reindeer activity for yourself? Here’s the instructions. Enjoy! (Warning: there’s glitter!)

Best in Business Bronze Winner!

Novel Effect is pleased to have been named a Bronze Winner for Start Up of the Year in this year’s Best in Biz awards.

Novel Effect has been named a Bronze winner in Start Up of the Year in Best in Biz Awards, the only independent business awards program judged each year by prominent editors and reporters from top-tier publications in North America.

“Amazing variety in the finalists in Best in Biz Awards this year,” said Christopher Null, Wired, returning to judge the awards for the sixth year. “It was incredibly difficult to pick a winner!”

Each year, Best in Biz Awards’ entrants span the spectrum, from some of the most innovative local start-ups to the most recognizable global brands. The seventh annual program was particularly hotly contested, with more than 650 entries from an impressive array of public and private companies of all sizes and from a variety of industries and geographic regions in the U.S. and Canada. Best in Biz Awards 2017 honors were presented in 65 categories, including Company of the Year, Fastest-Growing Company, Executive of the Year, and Website of the Year.

Novel Effect is very honored to have been selected!

And in case you’ve missed it, here’s a round-up of some of the other great write-ups about Novel Effect from the past month:

Coverage of Our Demo Day Pitch from the Alexa Accelerator by Geek Wire

Coverage of Our Shark Tank Appearance by Romper

Our Shark Tank Episode Recap on ABC.com

Wireless Wednesday Live Reviewing Novel Effect for the Holiday

Our Episode on the The Alexa Podcast by Voice First Radio (Episode 6)

 

Making Storytime Magic at Seattle Children’s Hospital

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The Novel Effect team had a great time at Seattle Children’s Hospital yesterday. Joy, Matt, Lucas, and Eric brought some of their favorite books and Novel Effect soundscapes to the Inpatient Playroom.

Together with the kids, we made storytime magic and did some fun crafts and activities with the patients and their families.

Thanks for having us, Seattle Children’s Hospital – we can’t wait to come back!

Novel Effect Goes to Shark Tank!

MARK CUBAN, SARA BLAKELY, KEVIN O'LEARY, LORI GREINER, DAYMOND JOHN, MATT HAMMERSLEY, MELISSA HAMMERSLEY (NOVEL EFFECT)

The entire Novel Effect team is excited to share that we’ll be featured on Season 9 episode 6 of ABC’s Emmy-Award winning show, Shark Tank at 9|8c October 29th. Storytime with Novel Effect is sure to make a splash!

We launched Novel Effect just over two years ago, to help every parent unlock the magic hidden between the pages of a favorite book. This summer, co-founders Matt and Melissa Hammersley had the chance to pitch our family focused, voice interactive reading app to the Sharks, including guest Shark and founder of Spanx, Sara Blakely. Continue reading “Novel Effect Goes to Shark Tank!”

National Book Month

October is National Book Month, and we’re celebrating all month long on Facebook! We’re featuring a different title from our library every day with video previews, demos, and more. Take a look at just two of our awesome videos we’ve shared so far:

 

And here’s the best part – at the end of the month, we’re giving away a book bundle with all the books we feature for National Book Month! So check it out and share away for your chance to win.