Friday, April 29, 2016

A Tale Dark & Grimm for Kids

Fridays have become my chance to pull great books out the archives that you may have missed when I first posted them.  Today I am revisiting a series that roots itself in the Grimm fairytales.  It eschews the softer and more palatable stories of today in favor of the cruel, more difficult stories which were perhaps more reminiscent of the arduousness of the times in which they were written.

This series is fun, dark and absolutely full of sarcasm.  In other words, perfect for kids.

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Title:          A Tale Dark & Grimm
Author:     Adam Gidwitz
Target:      Grades 4-7

Series:        Yes
What this book is about:
This book is the story of Hansel and Gretel, pre-birth (their parents meeting and marriage) through their childhood. The story is told in the fashion of a true Grimm fairy tale, violent and bloody - really.  A faithful servant turned to stone, a father who cuts his children’s heads off, a baker who is really a cannibal, and a boy who morphs into a beast, are just a few of the stories in this book.
Why I love this book:
No, I am not crazy, nor blood hungry, nor a lover of the gruesome.  In fact I am fairly squeamish!  What makes this story an absolute pleasure, and downright funny, is an ever present narrator who consistently lightens the mood and casts the stories in a whole new light.  As the narrator says “if such things bother you, we should probably stop right now.”  But don’t.  This story is too good.  
Ultimately, the story is about family and forgiveness and our cheeky narrator gets us there, but not without some bloodshed.
Who this book is for:
I would keep this book away from the most sensitive of children, but other than that it is entertaining ride.  Children have been drawn to the Grimm fairy tales for a century.  “Once upon a time, fairy tales were awesome.” our author would say.  The narrator certainly provides the levity to make this story truly enjoyable.
Final thoughts:
Don’t say we didn’t warn you!

To purchase this book:
Click on the following link to connect to Amazon: A Tale Dark & Grimm.  A portion of each purchase will go to support this blog at no cost to you.  Thank you for your support.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Raymie Nightingale

A new book by Kate DiCamillo is always big news.  This author of Newberry honored books Because of Winn-Dixie, The Tale of Despereaux and Flora and Ulysses always challenges kids to find the bigger meaning in her stories and creates a cast of characters that are quirky, inspiring
and unique.

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Title: Raymie Nightingale

Author: Kate DiCamillo

Target: Grades 4-7

Series: No

What this book is about: 
Raymie’s father has unexpectedly run off with a dental hygienist, leaving Raymie and her mother to fend for themselves.  Raymie is convinced that if she wins the Little Miss Central Florida Tire Competition of 1975, her father will feel compelled to return.  To win she feels she must be able to twirl a baton, so off she goes for lessons where she meets Lousisana and Beverly, two girls who have also suffered loss and with whom she will forge a deep connection.  Now if she can only figure out the meaning of it all.

Why I love this book:
  • This book is written in traditional Kate DiCamillo style.  Straightforward chapters with well placed, challenging vocabulary, creative repetition to reinforce concepts and a story that is always full of charm.  She continues to challenges kids to find a bigger meaning in her stories to which they can relate.
  • I appreciate that there is plenty of sadness in this book.  Kids know that life is not always fair and that they have to deal with heartbreak, but there is also hope, optimism and friendship to temper the difficult times.
  • I love the characters that DiCamillo creates.  They are always a little quirky and homespun which makes them far more interesting than the individuals in most books.
Who this book is for: 
Great for kids who like DiCamillo’s other books.  Kids who like realistic fiction with some eccentric characters thrown in will certainly appreciate the story.  This isn't a book for everyone, but it is great for the right kid.

Final thoughts: 
I love DiCamillo’s writing style.  What she can convey in short sentences and chapters by being so deliberate with the choices she makes is genius.  I also appreciated that this book was more relatable than some of her other more recent work.

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

Monday, April 25, 2016

Booked Is a Winning Story for Kids

How do I know this book is good?  Well it focuses on a boy who plays soccer and it is written entirely in verse and my daughter, who is a picky reader, finished it in one day.  The soccer did help draw her in, but the best part was how much she loved a story written completely in poetry.  She liked how quickly she could read the book while still quoting parts that were compelling for her.  The poetry actually turned out to be something about the book she loved!

April is poetry month for kids, and as parents it is easy to get scared by this topic.  However, this book will get kids looking at both reading and verse in a whole new light.

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Title: Booked

Author: Kwame Alexander

Target: Grades 5-8

Series: No

What this book is about: 
Nick is in middle school.  He is a star soccer player, with a crush on a cute girl, but then a talk with his parents reveals that all is not as good at home as he thought.  He is being targeted at school by some bullies and an injury sidelines him from a big tournament.  Things are going from bad to worse.  Of course throw in the fact that he hates words and his father wrote a dictionary and that his school librarian used to be a famous rapper who is trying to get him to read, and life feels pretty bleak.

Why I love this book:
  • Did I mention this book, like the author’s previous book, The Crossover, is written entirely in verse?  It will absolutely change the way your kids think about poetry.  It is amazing the type of imagery and emotion Alexander can draw from the reader with this type of writing, and he is masterful. 
  • I loved that the book focused on soccer.  My daughter is fanatic so I actually caught all the references and subtle nods to the game and its stars.
  • The author did not like to read as a kid, and this book is a tribute to how he felt about the subject.  Kids who are reluctant readers will definitely see themselves in Nick.
Who this book is for: 
Great book for most kids and the fact that it is written in verse will appeal to reluctant readers because of the shorter more mangeable chapters.  Don’t be scared off by the poetry, it reads much more like a rap. No e e cummings or Walt Whitman here.

Final thoughts: 
The Crossover is still my favorite by Kwame Alexander, but Booked is a wonderful second offering which really speaks to kids, especially boys, in a engaging and intelligent way.

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

Friday, April 22, 2016

Scepter of the Ancients for Kids Who like Action and Adventure

As the blog has grown, I have been thinking about the wonderful books I wrote about only four short years ago.  So many of them remain incredibly relevant and fabulous for kids today, but they are no longer top of mind.

You may be a new reader to the blog, or you may have had children who weren't in the age range for these particular books when I reviewed them, so I thought I would use Fridays to revisit some of my favorites from years past.  These books are great, so it is time to shine some light on these can't put down reads.  You may notice some format differences as my blog has evolved over the years!

The book I am revisiting today was a new import to the US from the UK when I read it.  Since then the full set of books has been published here.  I only wish we had had the full series when my son was younger.  Lucky you.

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Title:       Skulduggery Pleasant (Scepter of the Ancients)
Author:   Derek Landy
Target:    Grades 5-8

Series:     Yes
This is a very funny  book about a girl who inherits her uncle’s possessions (yes, surprisingly the main character is a girl.)    Her inheritance includes the Scepter of the Ancients, an item that is coveted by the magic/sorcerer community.  Skulduggery becomes her guide into this mystical world as they attempt to save  the Scepter and humanity from the nefarious villain Serpine!  Oh, and did I mention that Skulduggery is a human skeleton!
Skulduggery was released in the UK and for the US release they renamed the book Scepter of the Ancients.  In fact, to my sons dismay, only 3 of the 6 books in the series have been released so far in the US.  The cover did get a revamping.  If I hadn’t first read a review of the book, I would never have picked this book up based on the skeleton in a suit which graces the front of the UK edition.   
Landy’s writing can be violent at times, that is why I have listed for an older age group, but his clever banter takes the edge off.  His humorous back and forths take the novel to a fun new level.  I was drawn in right away to the story, as was my oldest son.  This is a series filled with dry humor for kids who like action and adventure.  The bonus is that the characters are also dimensional!

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

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Billy Sure Kid Entrepreneur

There is a weird time in a child's ready progression when they have moved on from an early chapter book but are not quite ready for some of the tomes out there for middle school readers.  That is when the book I am profiling today comes in handy.  It skews a little older in content, but is still a manageable read for kids who have just moved up in their reading level.  This book is full of fun and amazing inventions that will hopefully leave your kids trying to create the next big thing!

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Title: Billy Sure Kid Entrepreneur

Author: Luke Sharpe

Target: Grade 3-5

Series: Yes

What this book is about: 
Billy has just found fame and fortune as the young inventor of the All Ball, a ball that literally changes into almost any ball used in sports.  Since he is inundated with potential new product ideas from his classmates, he starts a website to find the next big idea.  Hundreds of ideas come in and the Sibling Silencer is the invention he picks to work on.  The problem is that he isn’t quite sure how he invented the All Ball since the plans mysteriously appeared in his room one morning.  So how is he going to get the Sibling Silencer to work?

Why I love this book: 
This is a lighthearted mystery with a humble main character and lots of silly and outrageous ideas for new products.  Kids will certainly enjoy hearing about all the wacky products that come in for the next big thing as well as trying to solve the mystery of the All Ball plans.  Billy feels like a normal kid, which makes this one relatable, even though creating any of the ideas would basically be impossible for a seventh grader!

Who this book is for: 
This book is a quick, easy read with large type and smaller pages.  Reminded me in many respects of Benji Franklin, although this book was actually more realistic.

Final thoughts: 
I always like books with kid entrepreneurs, it shows children that their ideas can have value!

To purchase this book:
Click on the following link to connect to Amazon: Billy Sure Kid Entrepreneur.  A portion of each purchase will support this blog at no cost to you.  Thank you for your support.Sur

Monday, April 18, 2016

Backlash Explores the Effects of Online Bullying

It may be because my tween will be getting a phone in the next few months, but I have been drawn to books about cyberbullying.  This book is fascinating because it also tackles issues of self esteem, depression and attempted suicide.  These are subjects we should be discussing with our kids, and while it is not always easy, sometimes a book is a wonderful starting point.  This book was well done and provides a perspective of how these issues affect all the kids in a family.

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Title: Backlash

Author: Sarah Darer Littman

Target: Grade 6 and up

Series: No

What this book is about: 
This book is about Lara, who develops a crush on a boy she has communicated with through Facebook but has never met.  When he dumps her in a very public and humiliating manner she is so hurt that she tries to take her own life.  The way this affects both her and the people around her is incredibly powerful and the story is told from Lara’s perspective, the perspective of her sister, Lara’s “used to be” best friend Bree from next store and Bree’s brother as they grapple with their own families and challenges.

Why I love this book:
  • No matter how many times we tell our kids about the power of the internet and the potentially negative effects of how they use social media, they still seem to think we are just a little bit out of touch.  This book is a good reminder that their actions can come back to haunt them.
  • This book looks at both the effects on the teen being bullied and the teen doing the bullying.  It is nice to get a look at both perspectives since nothing happens in a vacuum.
  • The multiple perspectives kept this book moving quickly and I found myself not wanting to put it down.  It was absolutely fascinating to get insight into all the characters’ thoughts.
Who this book is for: 
Great for kids as a cautionary tale about social media without feeling preachy.  It is an engaging story.  It reminds me of books like Unfriended and Katie Friedman Gives Up Texting which give kids a good perspective of what can happen when social media goes wrong.

Final thoughts: 
While a weighty subject, it is not one parents should shy away from.  Depression and cyberbullying is something every parent should be discussing with their kids and this book is good way to start the dialogue.

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


Friday, April 8, 2016

Lola Levine for Gutsy Girl Week

I am concluding Gutsy Girl Week with an early chapter book about a girl who likes to beat the boys at soccer.  Maybe, just maybe, this one hits close to home as I have a daughter who likes to do the very same thing!  But soccer lover or not, it is wonderful to see girls portrayed in books who are feisty and love sports.

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Title: Lola Levine Is Not Mean

Author: Monica Brown

Target: Grades 1-3

Series: This is the first book in a new series

What this book is about: 
Lola is in second grade and loves soccer and her family.  She hasn’t bonded all that well with the girls in her class, but she does have a best friend Josh.  When she slide tackles one of the boys in her class during a playground soccer game, she accidentally hurts him and gets the new nickname, Mean Lola Levine.  Will Lola be able to turn things around?

What I love about this book:
  • While I love a good princess dress, I do enjoy it when girls are also portrayed as tomboys so that they don’t think there is one way for them to be.  Lola is dubbed the Queen of Soccer, which is a pretty good nod to royalty in my book.
  • I enjoy stories with a variety of ethnicities.  Lola is Peruvian and Jewish and the school kids are portrayed in the illustrations as a variety of shades, making the story feel inclusive.
  • While not particularly innovative, the story itself is solid and this is a nice new entrant into the early chapter book category.
Who this book is for: 
Great for kids who have moved on from early readers.  Illustrations are plentiful but not on every page, so kids have to feel comfortable with a few pages of full text.

Final thoughts: 
Girls who love soccer will appreciate that Lola can beat the boys!

To purchase this book:
Click on the following link to connect to Amazon: Lola Levine Is Not Mean.  A portion of each purchase will go to support this blog at no cost to you.  Thank you for your support.