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Monday, July 28, 2014

Kate the Great Is a New Entrant to the Illustrated Novel Category

I had the opportunity to be given an advanced copy of a new illustrated novel coming out next month.  Too often I think publishers target these books towards boys, because they tend to be classified as reluctant readers.  However, I know so many parents who struggle with their daughters, trying to get them reading.

While illustrated/diary type novels are certainly not only for the reluctant reader, they tend to appeal to children who are overwhelmed by more traditional fare.  However, good illustrated novels are engaging for strong readers as well, because they provide another type of reading experience.  Kids need variety in their reading choices if we want them to continue loving books!

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Title:       Kate the Great Except When She’s Not


Author:  Suzy Becker

Target:   Grades 3-5

Series:   Not at this time

What this book is about: 
Kate is in fifth grade and contending with the usual stuff: band, Junior Guides, sleepover parties.  The bulk of the story centers around her friendship with Nora, a shy/loner girl in her class who Kate’s parents have asked her to befriend.  She begins by looking at Nora as the project she has to endure, but as time goes on she is able to crack through the veneer and develop a nice friendship with her, although not without some bumps in the road.

Why I love this book: 
This is a nice entrant for girls in the illustrated novel category.  Too often we think of boys as being the target audience for these type of stories, so it is nice to see Kate join the ranks of the Popularity Papers and Ellie McDoodle.  While this book is not quite as strong as the other two series, there is certainly room for Kate to grow and it offers a nice alternative to girls who have read the others.

I like that Kate is focused on the things fifth grade girls really think about and avoids the trap of being too “insightful.”  This is what will make it work for kids.  I found my second reading of the story much more enjoyable than the first, which also meant that the flow was a little off at times, but again, these are small fixes and I think the foundation of the book is a good one.  I will be interested to see the next book in the series.

The copy I had of this book was an electronic version, so I am unsure of how the graphics will look on a hard copy of the story.  I found myself often having to enlarge the illustrations on my Kindle app, but that may or may not be a problem with the hard copy.

Who this book is for:  
Well I thought it was great for my daughter Kate who is entering 5th grade.  Nice book for more reluctant readers.

Final thoughts: 
Thank you publishers for more diary/illustrated novels that focus on female characters!

To purchase this book:
Click on the following link to connect to Amazon: Kate the Great, Except When She's Not  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog at no cost to you.  Thank you for your support.


Monday, July 21, 2014

A Book Full of Fun and Games for Kids

I had the chance to recommend The Gollywhopper Games a few years back, but it was one of those stand alone books that was not part of a series.  So imagine my surprise when I saw a new version of the Gollywhopper Games at the library a few weeks back, with the promise of even more sequels.

I anxiously took it home and before I had a chance to turn to the first page, my son had hijacked the book.  Happily it was returned to me the very next morning because he read it straight through the evening.  That my friends is always the best recommendation I can give a story.

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Title:       The Gollywhopper Games: The New Champion

Author:  Jody Feldman

Target:   Grade 3-7

Series:    Yes

What this book is about: 
In this sequel to the wildly popular Gollywhopper Games, the Gollywhopper Toy Co. is at it again.  They are sponsoring another contest where kids have to solve a myriad of puzzles in order to win the $1 million grand prize.  Cameron and his brother Spencer are each competing for the prize, but can they make it through the number problems, alphabet codes and obstacle courses in enough time to be in contention for the big prize?

Why I love this book:  
First off, what is not to love about a contest in a toy factory.  This second book focused even more on the puzzles and riddles and was not burdened with setting up the premise for the story.  

A lot of the fun for kids is finding out the challenges and seeing if they can figure them out, although I will warn you, the puzzles are tough.  While the characters are fairly formulaic, the setting is quite fun and the story moves at a good pace.

Who this book is for: 
Kids should read the first book Gollywhopper Games before this one.  There are references to the previous story and the winners of the first contest are revealed in this book.  This book is for kids who like puzzles with some action thrown in.

Final thoughts: 
Action and brainteasers to keep kids guessing.  What is not to love?  Also, the new covers strongly remind me of Candy Crush, perhaps a sign of the times.

To purchase this book:
Click on the following link to connect to Amazon: The Gollywhopper Games: The New Champion  A portion of each purchase goes back to support this blog at no cost to you.  Thank you for your support.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Book for Teen Boys

I picked up this book because I am always looking for good teen boy reads.  As school ramps up and kids have less and less time for recreational reading, I know that boys in particular will let books fall off their plate.  So my job is to just keep the good books coming so they get interested in reading a story and they might actually put down their remote control!  A mom can dream.

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Title:       The Warrior’s Heart

Author:  Eric Greitens

Target:   Grade 8 and up

Series:   No

What this book is about: 
This book tells about the author’s journey from college student to aid worker in Rwanda and Bolivia to Rhodes Scholar and finally to Navy SEAL.  He challenges kids to think about the choices they make and how they can become more compassionate and caring individuals by discussing his journey and the experiences he has had.  Whether he is taking the reader to a refugee camp, to the slums where children are alone and uncared for, or to Hell Week at SEAL training he shows them how the decisions they make in those moments help shape them as human beings.

Why I love this book: 
This book is an adaptation of Eric Greiten's bestselling adult novel The Heart and the Fist.  It is impossible not to take the advice of someone who has walked in this man’s shoes.  He is the epitome of living a life of service.

The best parts of this book are probably his SEAL training because it focuses on individual obstacles that a person can overcome.  However, the beginning of the book is important in understanding how Eric ended up in the Navy Seals after a degree from Duke and a Phd from Oxford.  It is an amazing journey with a strong willingness to serve others.

My favorite quote was from his SEAL training when his group runs by a beach full of bikini clad women.  His commanding officer tells the men, “If you’re a real frogman, every time a women leaves your side, she’ll feel better about herself.”  Now there is some great advice for boys.

If I have one complaint in regards to the adaptation it is that Eric writes each section in a question format, very much like a “what would you do?”  I think it is writing down to teenage boys and I found it a bit confusing.  However, if you read this book together as a family, which would be a lovely way to share this story, I can see it serving as a jumping off point for discussions.  

Who this book is for: 
It is written from a male perspective and it is meant help boys become men of compassion and courage, but even girls will get something from this book.

Final thoughts: 
This is an inspiring story which is an absolute page turner.  It is impossible not the take this advice seriously when you see what this man has done with his life.

To purchase this book:
Click on the following link to connect to Amazon: The Warrior's Heart: Becoming a Man of Compassion and Courage  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog at no cost to you.  Thank you for your support.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Popular Clone

Ok, I have to be honest with you.  I was actually more interested in reading the third book in this series Game of Clones, but felt guilty going out of order so I started with the first.  But who wouldn't love that title?  This is a fun series that should appeal to kids who like funny, realistic fiction

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Title:       Popular Clone

Author:  M.E. Castle

Target:   Grades 3-7

Series:   Yes

What this book is about: 
Fisher Bas has a tough life.  He is a science genius, which is not that high on the social ladder at school.  In an effort to get away from bullies who are harassing him, he “borrows” some of the Advanced Growth Hormones is mother is working on to create a clone of himself.  Now Fisher can stay home and work on his own experiments while his clone suffers the torment at school.  However, when Fisher’s clone turns out to be more popular - much more popular - he draws attention to himself and the attention of an evil scientist who would love to get his hands on the Advanced Growth Hormones.  Will the evil Dr. X ruin all Fisher’s plans - well you take a guess?

Why I love this book: 
This book is just plain fun.  I had to read it when I saw that Castle’s other two books were Cloneward Bound and Game of Clones.  There is plenty of humor in this story, coupled with lots of action which keeps the story moving nicely.

Fisher is a likable character and you are rooting for him the whole time. I like that Fisher finds his courage but doesn’t abandon who he is, even if that means he won’t be the most popular kid in school.

Who this book is for: 
Kids who like Genius Files and Science Fair will find this book a home run.  Because of the humor and action, kids who are reluctant readers will find a lot to like in this story.

Final thoughts: 
A clone to do my housework … a mom can dream. 

To purchase this book:
Click on the following link to connect to Amazon: Popular Clone: The Clone Chronicles #1  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog at no cost to you.  Thank you for your support.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

No Dogs Allowed Is a Wonderful Early Chapter Book

Yes, I continue the search for great early chapter books that get kids engaged in loving to read.  It is a pivotal time and the right book can make all the difference.  This week I have an offering from the author of the Magic School Bus series.  Any writer that can make science fun for kids has some serious talent in my book.

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Title:       Ready, Set, Dogs!

Authors: Stephanie Calmenson & Joanna Cole

Target:    Grades 1-4

Series:    Yes

What this book is about: 
Best friends Kate and Lucie love dogs, but because they live in a “no dogs” apartment complex, they cannot have pets of their own.  When they find pink dog bone necklaces at the thrift shop, they quickly discover that with a high five and a “woof” they can turn themselves into adorable pooches.  The girls have fun and adventures as they move in and out of the canine world.

Why I love this book:  
This story was fast paced and funny.  While early chapter books rarely make me laugh, this one actually got quite a few chuckles out of me.  The writing is good and the illustrations by Heather Ross are a great complement to the story.  I can definitely see kids enjoying these books.

Who this book is for: 
Great for kids who like dogs and funny books.  I was reminded a bit of The Critter Club.

Final thoughts: 
Joanna Cole is actually the author of the Magic School Bus series and her experience as a writer for young readers definitely elevates this story.

To purchase this book:
Click on the following link to connect to Amazon: No Dogs Allowed (Ready, Set, Dogs!)  A portion of each purchase goes back to support this blog at no cost to you.  Thank you for your support.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Secret of Ferrell Savage Is a Book Your Kids Will Eat Up

With Donner Dinner Party and now The Secret of Ferrell Savage, cannibalism in children's books is becoming all the rage.  Well not quite, but next time your son or daughter asks to cook diner, be careful ... be very careful!

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Title:       The Secret of Ferrell Savage

Author:  J. Duddy Gill

Target:   Grades 3-7

Series:    No

What this book is about: 
Ferrell Savage is a pretty easy going guy.  At twelve he can finally participate in the Big Sled Race on Golden Hill where each kid must build their own sled.  His best friend Mary is literately going down in the kitchen sink, Ferrell pieces together a lawn chair on skis, and a new kid arrives with a sled that is guaranteed to be a winner.  Turns out the new kid has it out for Ferrell and threatens to expose a deep dark family secret.  A death defying sled race stands in the way of Ferrell’s secret getting out but there is no way the new kid is backing down.

Why I love this book: 
Funny with a capital F. I don’t often laugh out loud while reading books, but  this one had me guffawing in my chair.  From the disastrous first sled race to the realization that Ferrell’s great-great-great uncle ate his best friend Mary’s relative, there is no end to hilarity.  My son read it after I did and kept coming out to recount the funny parts of the book.

I enjoyed the fact that the back story is based on real people and events.  An interesting bit of history thrown into this delightful tale.

Who this book is for: 
Kids who like realistic fiction and who like to laugh.

Final thoughts: 
There aren’t too many books on cannibalism out there, so really this one is not to be missed. (I could make a clever pun here, but would you eat it up or think it bites?  Oops!)

To purchase this book:
Click on the following link to connect to Amazon: The Secret of Ferrell Savage  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog at no cost to you.  Thank you for your support.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

We Were Liars Is a Great Summer Read for Teens

This is being called the book of the summer, and given it's setting on an island off of Martha's Vineyard during summer break, I can see why.  This is one of those books that holds an amazing mystery, and no one wants to give too much away.

Don't read lots of reviews for the book.  Read one or two and then pick it up or don't, but if you decide it is for you, enjoy the ride.

Title:       We Were Liars

Author:  E. Lockhart

Target:   Grades 7 and up

Series:    No

What this book is about: 
Cadence is a Sinclair.  She is tall and blond and athletic. Her grandfather owns an island off of Martha’s Vineyard where she spends the summer.  Only this year she is coming back after an accident on the island that has left her with amnesia.  As she reunites with her cousins, she tries to put the pieces of her memory back together.  As she starts to remember she realizes that her “perfect” family is flawed in so many ways.

Why I love this book: 
I just loved the writing in this book.  It is at times shocking and powerful.  The imagery and metaphors are so striking that at times I couldn’t help gasping.  But at it’s heart it is a powerful story of family, it is about the lies we tell ourselves and others and it is about love, privilege and manipulation.

I know I sound a bit evasive in my description, but I don’t want to give any of this book away.  There are twists built in that will leave you breathless and to spoil them would be criminal.

Who this book is for: 
Anyone who loves family drama, romance, the lives of the rich and famous and a good mystery.  Both kids and parents will plow through this story.  I read it in one day.

Final thoughts: 
A haunting book.  I wish I had the time to read it again.

To purchase this book:
Click on the following link to connect to Amazon: We Were Liars  A portion of each purchase will go back to this blog at no cost to you.  Thank you for your support.