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Summer Brain Quest: Get Ready for 1st Grade Review by Deann Hadley

(For adventures between grades K&1)
By Workman Publishing, Megan Butler, Claire Piddock, and Kimberly Oliver Burnim
Workman Publishing Company
225 Varick Street
New York, NY 10014-4381

My youngest child finished her kindergarten year at the end of May. She was blessed with the opportunity to review Summer Brain Quest: Get Ready for 1st Grade from Workman Publishing Co., Inc. at the same time. What perfect timing! This book is intended “for adventures between grades K and 1.” It can be used by homeschool and public school children.

My other children have used various summer “between grade” books in the past, but this one instantly became our favorite series. We already like Brain Quest products, but a workbook from them is something new to us. The book is a nice size, 8.25” by 11.75”, and contains one hundred sixty pages plus extra pages full of stickers and a fold-out summer progress map. The list price is $12.95.

The book begins with an introduction to the basic components contained in the book. The progress map is used to keep track of what quests and achievements the child has completed. In order to complete a quest, the child follows the instructions on a quest exercise, which are the pages that make up the majority of the book. Each page has instructions written in a font that young children can easily read, colorful illustrations (except for the pages instructing them to color), and lined boxes where they are supposed to write. Once complete, there is an image of the sticker they should add to their progress map. These exercises and quest stickers correspond with one of four subjects—math, language arts, science, or social studies.

Some pages contain a bonus box, an extra activity to complete on that page to earn an achievement sticker. As the child follows the path on the map, they will find a compass symbol. These represent an Outside Quest, which means something they can complete that is not completed in the book, and earn an additional sticker. The Level One Outside Quest was a letter hunt. We had to go outside and find an object in nature that started with each letter of my daughter’s name. Then she found objects for each letter in my name. Other Outside Quests are games, counting animals, finding animal or insect homes, and more.

Once the child completes a level, they get to add a level complete achievement sticker to their map. There are eight levels, each containing all the subjects, and shown as a different color on the map. There are also completion stickers for each of the four subjects (math, language arts, science, and social studies) that the child can work toward. When the child completes their summer quest, they can earn a completion sticker and award. If the child has earned all the stickers and completed all the outside quests, they earn the 100% sticker as well.

All the stickers and components sound like a lot when written out, but the book is really quite simple, and not complicated at all. As soon as it arrived, my daughter and I explored the book and read the first few pages of instructions (which are mostly images). It all looked so exciting that she couldn’t wait to get started! So, we did one page right away. Ever since then she rushes to get ready for the day and start her Summer Brain Quest book as early as possible! There are one hundred eighteen pages of activities, and my daughter has chosen to do four pages a day. She will complete this long before the summer ends, but that is because she is doing it so quickly.

Each subject has various exercises so children practice what they have learned. One math page has pictures of marshmallows on sticks. One stick has eight marshmallows and states, “Four are burned. How many are not burned?” A social studies page had my daughter draw a map of her neighborhood and nearby places she visits regularly. A science page asks the child to color the animals and plants pictured that live in the grassland. One language arts page asks the child to place the correct punctuation at the end of some sentences. Every page looks fun and right at my child’s skill level.

The back of the book has an “Extras” section. The first part is a reading list. There are twelve fiction titles suggested and eleven nonfiction titles. Each selection has a synopsis of the book and places for the child to write the date they started and finished the book. There are two widely spaced lines for the child to write their review of the story, or for the parent to write as the child dictates. There is a list of questions intended to get the child thinking about the story and recognizing literary elements such as setting, character, theme, conflict, as well as identifying the author and genre. The second part is a Summer Brain Quest Mini Deck of cards to cut out. They have two questions with images on the front and the answers on the back. In true Brain Quest fashion, they help the child think through problems and form verbal answers.

I don’t know who loves this book more, my daughter or myself! It is full of fun graphics, bright colors, and well-laid-out pages. The activities cover a variety of topics and help the child practice skills they learned during the kindergarten year, as well as encouraging them to stretch a little bit to prepare their brain for the next year of school. We used this book for about three days and liked it so much that I bought the third to fourth grade book for my older daughter! Now they sit on the couch each morning, work on their pages, and compare their maps and stickers. This book is an appealing way to get children excited about summer learning.

-Product review by Deann Hadley, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, July 2017