Thursday, October 27, 2011

Books With Action, Adventure and Intrigue

For some reason I have been thinking action/adventure this week!   Maybe I need a little more excitement in my life!  This is a wonderful genre where our hero/heroine is placed in a dangerous situation and they have to live by their wits and skill.  These three books are great for boys and girls and they kept me at the edge of my seat.  They are all series, so if your child likes the first, your work is done for a few weeks (unless they like the Emerald Atlas whose second book is not due out until 2012...sorry!)

I feel as though I am neglecting a certain type of book on this blog, so next week I think I will do an ode to the picture book, because really, we are never to old to love a great read aloud!

Title:        The Emerald Atlas
Author:   John Stephens
Target:    Grade 4-8
Imagine the Golden Compass, Harry Potter and the Tales of Narnia all mixed up in a bag and that would be the influence for this book.  At times I felt like the material was not original enough, but that said, the story was engaging and I was caught up in the characters.  
Three children are separated from their parents and sent to orphanages because (unbeknownst to them) they are destined to fulfill a prophecy and evil is trying to find them.  However, as all good stories go, the last orphanage takes them directly to their destiny as they find a mysterious book which allows them to travel through time and discover magical and mysterious worlds.  They must fight against the forces who are trying to use this book for evil and learn their destiny and the power of family.
This book is the first in a planned series of three books and the action keeps it moving at a good pace.  The time travel was confusing for me (and I like to think I can manage your basic single mutable time stream theory) so I imagine that unless your kids are especially brilliant or on the older end of the target audience, they will simply gloss over these nuances in the story.
Interestingly the author also wrote for the Gillmore Girls (a favorite series of mine), however, while the characters are well developed, they do lack the quirky charm I was expecting!

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


Title:       H.I.V.E.

Author:  Mark Walden

Target:   Grade 5-8
What I really want to know is why I have never heard of this series before?  I picked up the fifth book at the library because the cover was intriguing.  When I saw it was a series I sought out the first book and let me tell you, I couldn’t put it down!  The author, Mark Walden, used to be a video game designer, and I can tell you that he has written a book full of action and intrigue.
The characters in this book are extremely appealing and well written.  Thirteen year old Otto and three friends are kidnapped and taken to the Higher Institute of Villainous Education (HIVE), a school for world villains.  All the kids have heightened abilities (photographic memories, skill with electronics, stealth maneuvers) that cause them to be both extremely gifted and crafty.  However, it is their intelligence and skill that define them, and not a propensity towards wrongdoing.   It is their attempt to leave the school and subsequent fight with a carnivorous giant plant that keeps the action fast paced.
This was a page turner.  Great for both boys and girls, but if you have a reluctant boy reader, I think the action and fun in this book will pull him in quickly.  This book left me wanting more answers so I will definitely be reading the next one!!!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

It's All About a Female Perspective

Well, we gave the boys some choices last week, so this week I am posting books whose content is all girl!  From a fifth grade girl navigating the school scene, to the effects of a doll on four girls during the Depression, to a monumental tenth birthday for a girl managing her own emotions, these books speak volumes to the right audience.

There are really some lovely choices, and I hope that they resonate with your girls!

Title:        The Friendship Doll
Author:   Kirby Larson
Target:    Grades 4-6
You do not have to love dolls (or even particularly like them) to love this book!  Larson takes the real story of 58 dolls sent from Japan to the US in the 1920’s, to be ambassadors for friendship, and follows the path of one doll and the people she encounters.  This is really more like four separate stories of the lives that the doll affects.  Miss Kanagawa (our doll heroine) is influential with a young socialite, a girl whose father has lost his job in the Depression, an avid reader in the back woods of Kentucky and an Okie, making her way to California.
The fact that this is based on a true event, makes it all the more interesting.  Since it takes place during the Depression, children will get a real look at life during that time from many vantage points.  It’s the children’s stories that are the most compelling.  The doll is really a tool to tell their stories.  I was amazed how complete each story was, even though each one was only about 50 pages.
Alot of the books I have read recently had not been worth blogging about, so I was thrilled to get my hands on this story.  I was completely drawn in to each of the girls adventures.  Larson is a wonderful story teller and this book is hard to put down.

Title:        The Winnie Years - Ten
Author:   Lauren Myracle
Target:    Grade 4-6
I kept thinking as I read this book that it would be a wonderful story for my daughter when she gets older.  It is really incredibly charming!  The main character Winnie faces all the challenges of a typical 10 year old: a mean girl, friends in her class getting boy crazy and the daily trials of maintaining friendships.  The lessons that she learns are ones that every parent hopes to teach their daughter!   Oddly the book kind of reminded my of Ivy and Bean, the tween years!
Winnie is spunky, well just a downright goofball, which will keep readers engaged and laughing.    Each chapter is a month in her life where we hear about a highlighted event.  We are also introduced to a cast of characters who will appear in subsequent books.
I wouldn’t call this an award winning book, but if you want your daughter to read about a real girl, with real everyday problems that are handled in a sensible and caring way, then this is a great book to give them.  The author has written books about Winnie up to fourteen, which I have not read, but if they are anything like Winnie at ten, then they will be a delight!

Title:        Junonia
Author:   Kevin Henkes
Target:    Grades 3-5
I picked up this book because I love Kevin Henkes’ picture books (Chrysanthemum, Lily and the Purple Plastic Purse) and was excited to see what he had written for an older crowd!   It is about a girl, Alice, who takes an annual trip to Florida where she sees the same families every year, and they have become like her family.  The only difference is that this year some of the regulars can’t make it, and that threatens to ruin the whole week, and her birthday week at that!
This book is very much about Alice’s feelings, and Henkes does a beautiful job of capturing a 9 (almost 10) year old girls fears, happiness and anger.  I guess Alice reminded me alot of myself at that age, only more mature.   I think most young girls will related to her tangle of sentiments and hopes. 
This book is actually quite small in size and the chapters are short, but it is packed with great stuff, so don’t be fooled into thinking this is a book for a younger age group.  If you buy it for someone younger than third grade I am afraid the content will disappoint you!  This is not an action book, a good way to describe it might be a quiet book (which is my biggest concern), but if your daughter loves reading about a well developed character, who probably shares some of the same worries and expectations, then this is a winner!  

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Fun Books for Boys

Ok, I hate classifying books as boy or girl, because really, a great story is a great story.  However, there is certainly subject matter that appeals more to boys than girls and visa versa.  It also seems to be harder, in general, to get boys to read.  The US Department of Education reading tests for the last 30 years show boys scoring worse than girls in every age group, every year.  So I hope the subject of these books will appeal to boys.  They may not love them all, but it's a start!   So, let's hear it for the boys!

And don't worry girls, my next blog will have a selection that would probably make the boys say yuck!  Please "like" One Great Book on facebook or sign up for my twitter feeds so you know when I have posted the next selections!  I will post new books weekly, but since I need to build up content, it may be even faster in the next few weeks, so I can have a good selection on the site!

Title:        If I Built a Car
Author:   Chris Van Dusen
Title:        Cars Galore
Author:   Peter Stein
Target:    Preschool - Grade 1
Having two boys who were obsessed with anything that had wheels, I read just about every book about front loaders, articulated dump trucks and hot wheels race cars!  I must admit my Barbie camper bus ill prepared me for the world I entered.  So I was always thrilled to find a car book that not only engaged my boys, but also was a fun read for me.  The two books above fit the bill!
If I Built a Car is a fun look at what a young  boy would put in his car if he were in charge.  A pool and snack bar are right at the top of the list!  The ability to go under water and fly, also adds to the fun.  My kids loved the illustrations and always immediately shared with me not only their favorites, but also the things they would add!
Cars Galore also has wonderful illustrations and shows a variety of cars on the road.  The text describes “tall car, short car, fun-filled fort car.” and the kids have a great time finding that car on the page.  Who doesn’t love the “hundred feet car” which has, in fact, one hundred actual feet!
Two really fun books you and your kids will enjoy, that also features cars.  Yippee!

Title:        Melvin Beederman Superhero: The Curse of the Bologna Sandwich

Author:   Greg Trine
Target:    Grades 1-3
Fabulous black and white illustrations throughout the chapters, a superhero whose brain is his best weapon, and lots of references to underwear will make this story appealing to even the most reluctant reader!  My son, who was avoiding chapter books, got his teeth into this series and couldn’t stop!
I loved the humor of the book, and the repetitive style will make readers feel confident without insulting their intelligence.   I also appreciated the fact the book appeals to the silly in boys without being vulgar.
Our hero Melvin has just graduated from the Superhero Academy and is sent to Los Angeles to protect their citizens from villains.  A cape mix up at the dry cleaners leads to a new sidekick and the eventual defeat of the McNasty Brothers.  A enjoyable, fun read to get boys into chapter books.   It was one of the few series that got my son Will to move into fiction when all I could get him to read were Pokemon handbooks and National Geographic Kids magazine.

Title:        The Extraordinary Adventures of Ordinary Boy: The Hero Revealed
Author:   William Boniface
Target:     Grades 3-5
Imagine a town called Superopolis where everyone has a super power, except Ordinary Boy.  In Superopolis everyone’s name has something to do with their super power.  A baby might start out as Floating Baby, as he gets older he will be Floating Boy, and eventually Floating Man.  However, not all the powers are impressive, as we learn from the likes of Puddle Boy! 
In this book, kids get a humorous look at superheroes, villains and who the real heroes are.  I (and most other parents) will love that readers must question the justification of spending all your allowance on trading cards (Pokemon anyone!)  and the economics of supply and demand!  The story revolves around stopping the evil plans of the villain Brain Drain
I think it is a wonderful boy series to get kids reading longer chapter books.  Half the fun is in the unusual powers that some of the kid super heroes posses.  Great messages on friendship delivered with alot of silly humor!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Halloween has me thinking candy!   In honor of this sugar laden holiday, I thought I would share two candy filled reads that I discovered recently.  No brushing after reading required, well unless it’s right before bedtime, and then you know the drill!

In the upcoming weeks I will include selections for Preschool through 8th grade, so check back or join my twitter account for new and inspired selections!

Title:              The Candymakers
Author:         Wendy Mass
Target:         Grades 4-7
I really had a hard time putting this book down.  I was surprised how well written it was.  It started off very much like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  Four kids are selected to participate in a candy making competition and are allowed into a chocolate factory that was closed to visitors long ago.  However, this is where the similarity ends.
The fun of this book is that the story is told in five parts, the first four are from the perspective of each of the participants.  You see the story from the first child’s perspective, and then low and behold, when you get to the next child, your perception of the events are thrown on their head.  I loved it each time my son got to a new revelation, he looked up at me just as amazed as I had been.  The story gets richer and more interesting with each child’s version. 
I will say that some of the scenarios are bit far fetched, but it is a children’s book, set in a candy factory for goodness sake, so I will certainly allow the author the whimsy that the books subject conjures up.  Once I was into this story, I found it difficult to stop reading (kind of like a bag of M&Ms, you can't take just one handful), which I think is the best kind of recommendation!

Title:              The Candy Shop War
Author:         Brandon Mull
Target:         Grades 5-8
Rock candy that makes you weightless, chocolate balls that change your appearance, all sounds like the makings of a sweet little tale, but don’t be fooled.   This story is alot darker than I expected, so it makes a good read for an older child.  Candy Shop War is a story of magicians who are trying to find a hidden treasure.  Their magic candy only works on children, so they use the kids to do assignments for them with the promise of more mysterious candy as a reward.  The children don’t always make the best choices as the assignments become progressively more dangerous and test their moral compass.  However, in the end, it is up to the kids to put an end to the evil deeds. 
My oldest son read this book in two days and barely put it down!  However, this is definitely not a book to be judged by its cover!  The title and cover art seem quite a bit sweeter than the actual story that follows.  As the danger grows, so does the action and suspense in the book.   All in all, an exciting read with a dark twist.