Sunday, May 27, 2012

Kid's Summer Reading List: Part 2/4

Well. with summer coming quickly upon us, here is the second part of my four part summer reading post.  This week I am focusing on:

Granola Mom List

This list is for moms who see the summers as a series of tie dyed shirts and daisy chains.  Reading is for lounging on the grass (not smoking it) and the high of a good laugh!

For this list I have selected books that fall under the Wimpy Kid banner.  They are in diary format and/or integrated with graphics throughout the book.  But fear not! While they appear to be simple, the stories are clever, the characters are developed and the humor is sophisticated.  There are some wonderful books and series in this category that can hook in a reluctant reader and keep them reading.

So get out there and read a book.  And make it a graphic novel because don't you want your kids to have some fun over the summer.  Oh come on, it's summer!

Title:          Planet Tad
Author:      Tim Carvell
Target:       Grades 4-6
Series:        No
What this book is about:
Tad is in seventh grade, and when he gets a computer for Christmas he decides to start a daily blog about his life.  Tad is a good kid, but just about everything that can go wrong for a seventh grader does for Tad.  The girls make a list ranking the cutest boys in the class and he’s not on it because they forgot him.  He looses his sister’s pet hamster and buys another which he sneaks into her room, only to get caught when the sister’s original hamster turns up dead in his mom’s box of Cheerios!  There is also the class picture fiasco and a secret admirer, but you will just have to read the book to find out more!
Why I love this book:
Well my son sat on the coach and was laughing out loud while reading this book.  Then when he was done, he went back a reread all the funny parts, which was basically the whole book.  How can a mom not be thrilled with that?
The author of this book, Tim Carvell, is the head writer for the Daily Show so the book is filled with witty observations about daily life.  He also writes a monthly piece called Planet Tad for MAD magazine so this character is quite developed, although surprisingly quite innocent given the venue.  Lots of funny reflections on being twelve but nothing gross or inappropriate.
Who this book is for:
Reluctant readers will warm to the diary/blog format, but really any kid will enjoy the humor.
Final thoughts:
”This book will make you laugh.  If you’re not into that sort of thing, consider yourself warned.” - Stephen Colbert.

To purchase this book, go to your local bookstore or click here to connect to Amazon: Planet Tad  A portion of each purchase goes back to support this blog.

Title:          Ellie McDoodle: Have Pen, Will Travel
Author:      Ruth McNally Barshaw
Target:       Grades 3-5
Series:        Yes
What this book is about: Ellie McDougal is called Ellie McDoodle by the kids at school because she loves to draw.  When Ellie’s parents must fly to a funeral, Ellie is left with her aunt, uncle and three annoying cousins.   To make matters worse, she is joining them on their camping trip!  Her journal chronicles her frustrations, the pranks they all pull on each other, and eventually the friendships they share.
Why I love this book:
Ellie feels all the things you do when you are away from home and don’t want to be.  But she is also a nice kid and in the end it all works out the way it is supposed to.  The journal/sketches are very well done and are a great way to tell the story.  I loved how her cousin Eric, for example, is portrayed as a type of swamp monster at the beginning of the story, but as they start to get along, his real self takes shape.  
I also thought the description for games such as Spoons, Fing Fang Fooey and Blob Tag, that Ellie loves, were a great addition.  I imagine any kid reading this book will want to try them out themselves.  This is really a lovely book with a real main character, with whom readers will be able to identify.
Who this book is for:
Targeted primarily for girls, but I think both boys or girls could enjoy it.  Just might be a harder sell for boys.
Final thoughts:
Great section in the back of the book to inspire kids to draw and teach them how to make some of the characters in the book.

To purchase this book, go to your local bookstore or click here to connect to Amazon: Ellie McDoodle: Have Pen, Will Travel  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog.

Title:          Dragonbreath
Author:      Ursula Vernon
Target:       Grades 2-5
Series:        Yes
What this book is about: Dragonbreath can’t breath fire like the rest of his family.  The school bully is in the habit of stealing his lunch.  He just got an F on a report about the ocean he wrote on the school bus.  It is not easy to be the only mythological creature in school, with a best friend who is a smarty pants lizard.  However in an attempt to rewrite his report, he and his best friend catch a ride with Uncle Sea Serpent and learn about the depths of the ocean.  Oh, and a potato salad that fights back takes care of that school bully!
Why I love this book:
This book is in the Wimpy Kid genre - text and pictures used to tell the story.  I loved both Dragonbreath and his best buddy Wendell.  The two characters play off each other in a funny and clever way.  The humor is silly and intelligent but not gross, and I actually learned a few things about the ocean without even realizing I was being taught!
Who this book is for:
Anyone who likes the Big Nate/Wimpy Kid series should feel right at home with Dragonbreath.  Reluctant reader will like the shorter pages and abundant graphics.  The smarter humor also makes this a good choice for kids who usually read up.
Final thoughts:
This is one your kids will love, and you can feel good about it too!

To purchase this book, go to your local bookstore or click here to connect to Amazon: Dragonbreath  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Kid's Summer Reading List: Part 1/4

Summer is just around the corner, so I thought it was time for my summer reading recommendations.  This will be a four part post to give you enough books for those plane rides, car trips and lazy summer days.  That, and I realized that many of you might see summer reading from different perspectives.  I thought I would start with the most serious summer readers first:

Tiger Mom List

This list is for mom's who want to keep the academics going over the summer.  No rest for the weary!  Summer is an opportunity to get ahead of those other pesky kids in the class and show them who's boss.

For this list I a have selected only Newbery winners or honor books because aren't they the best of the best?  But do not fear, while these are award winning and librarian approved, they are also the books that fit best with summer days and heightened imaginations!  The Newbery is filled with books kids should like but really don't, and I hope this list pulls out the gems that are both innovative and exciting to children.

So get out there and read a book.  And make it a Newbery, because don't you want your kids to get smarter over the summer?  Oh come on, you know you do!

Title:          Holes
Author:      Louis Sachar
Target:       Grades 4-6
Series:        No
Newbery Medal Book
What this book is about:
Stanley’s family is cursed.  It started with his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing great-great grandfather and it haunts him to this day.  When Stanley gets wrongly sent to the juvenile detention center, Camp Green Lake, he quickly discovers this is not camp and  there is no lake.  Instead the boys must go out everyday and dig a hole, 5’ by 5’ in the blazing hot sun.  But this punishment is not as random as it seems.  Apparently the Warden is trying to find something and Stanley may hold the key to its discovery.
Why I love this book:
This is just a great, well written story.  Throughout the book Stanley’s situation is intertwined with stories from the past that all tie back to his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing great-great grandfather.
It is wonderful to see Stanley evolve and navigate the other kids at “camp.”  There is a real happiness in the book as Stanley discovers he likes himself and who he has become.  And of course there is plenty of suspense as the boys fight against the Warden, and Stanley discovers the purpose of their digging!
Who this book is for:
Great for all kids.  
Final thoughts:
Sacher takes a difficult situation and adds history, humor and suspense to create a wonderful novel.

To purchase this book, go to your local bookstore or click here to connect to Amazon: Holes  A portion of each purchase goes back to support this blog.

Title:          Turtle in Paradise
Author:      Jennifer L. Holm
Target:       Grades 3-6
Series:        No
Newbery Honor Book
What this book is about:
It’s 1935 and times are tough.  When Turtle’s mother gets a housekeeping job and Turtle is not allowed to live with her, she is shipped off to her aunt in Florida (who, by the way, is not expecting her!)  She is confronted with a set of young cousins and relatives who initially give her the stink eye, and won’t let her into their “business.”  That business would be the Diaper Gang,  a group of boys who take care of unruly babies and have invented a diaper creme that mothers think is miraculous (weren’t expecting that one were you!)  Turtle struggles to fit in and open herself up to family.
Why I love this book:
Oh, come on, a group of hoodlum boys who run a Diaper Gang, what is not to love about that!  Turtle is one tough cookie, and she is so realistic about life at such a young age that you can’t help but root for her.  This is a wonderful period piece and the author has taken facts about her own relatives to write the book.  Kids will get a nice overview of what is was like to live during the depression.
Who this book is for:
Kid’s who enjoy historical fiction, but there is also some good action in the book when they go in search of pirate treasure.  The main character is a girl, but she is not particularly girly so boys may warm to the book as well.  However the cover is so feminine it may take some work to get boys to open it up!
Final thoughts:
The feelings of Key West in the summer, ice cream trucks and buried treasure make this a nice summer read for kids.

To purchase this book, go to your local bookstore or click here to connect to Amazon: Turtle in Paradise  A portion of each purchase goes back to support this blog.

Title:          Savvy
Author:      Ingrid Law
Target:       Grades 4-7
Series:        No, but there is a sequel, Scumble
Newbery Honor Book
What this book is about:
Mib has a distinctive family.  When a family member turns thirteen, they discover their savvy, or their unique magical talent.   Mib’s mother does everything perfectly, one brother can control electricity with his body, the other brother can create weather storms with his moods.  Sadly, Mib’s father is in a serious car accident the night before her thirteenth birthday, so Mib is left to find her savvy with none of her support system around her.  In an attempt to get to her parents, Mib finds her way onto a bible selling bus with her remaining siblings, the preacher’s children and a sweet but meek salesman.  Her journey will forever change her life, and theirs.
What I love about this book:
I just loved the idea of savvy. - magic that brings out one unique ability in a person that makes them distinctive or special.  I think that every person has a savvy and that is what makes the story magical and accessible.
The cast of characters is wonderful, and every child will realize that all families have a little crazy in them.  As Mibs discovers her savvy, I felt the heartbreak as she hoped it would be able to help her father, and then the understanding it gave her.
Who this book is for:
Both boys and girls should enjoy this book.  My older son read it and said he couldn’t get it out of his head.
Final thoughts:
Wonderful book that shows what people are on the outside is not necessarily what they are on the inside.

To purchase this book, go to your local bookstore or click here to connect to Amazon: Savvy  A portion of each purchase goes back to support this blog.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Doodle Books

I just received some Doodle Books from a contest I entered through Chronicle Books and I had to share them with you!  I have always been a fan of Taro Gomi, a Japanese children's book author and illustrator.  His doodle books are simple, yet intelligent and thought provoking.  

I can't wait to pull these out at a restaurant, when my youngest is getting restless and I can't play one more game of I Spy a Salt Shaker!  Great gift idea and summer boredom buster!  

Ok, how cute are these placemats?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Best Baseball Books Your Kids Haven't Read

Your kid is sports obsessed.  The only way to get him to read a book is to put a sports book in his hands.  You have gone through all Mike Lupica has to offer but even those are nearing their end, what is a mom to do?

Perhaps your child is just getting into chapter books and you want ones that capture his love of sports to get him excited about reading.  You have heard time and time again that children are drawn to books based on subjects that interest them and not necessarily books that are simply interesting.  You have scoured the library shelves for books by Matt Christopher, but you need something else!

Well baseball moms, fear no longer!  Today I have a selection that will take their love of the game and translate that into a great story.  A love of baseball and a love of reading do not have to cancel each other out.  Rejoice and have a hot dog!

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Title:          Two Hot Dogs with Everything
Author:      Paul Haven
Target:       Grades 3-6
Series:        No
What this book is about:
Danny Gurkin is the biggest Sluggers fan....ever!  That is quite an accomplishment when the Sluggers are the worst team in baseball, and have been the worst team for over 100 years.   Danny truly believes that he can control the outcome of the games.  This involves eating two hots with everything before every game (extra goop when the rookie Canova is pitching,) all windows closed when the count is full, caps backwards when there is a chance of a double play, standing on one foot, holding your breath and crossing your fingers to get a rally get the idea.  However a chance encounter with the caretaker at the home of the first Sluggers owner leads Danny to find the ultimate good luck charm.  Will it be good enough to take the Sluggers to the World Series?
Why I love this book:
First, if you love baseball, this book will strike a chord.  The games had me on the edge of my seat, the history of the team gave this story substance and Danny’s superstitions are right in line with any baseball fan.  My son has actually stopped watching games because he thought he was bringing bad luck to the team.
Also, both my sons loved this book!  Neither one of them could put it down and both of them wanted to talk to me about the story afterwards.  It really is suspenseful for a baseball book, and it has just enough details that the baseball feels very authentic without being too technical.  
Who this book is for:
Any kid who has crossed his fingers, left the room or followed a superstition to help his team win a game.
Final thoughts:
Sometimes believing in yourself is the first step to success!

To purchase this book, go to your local bookstore or click her to connect to Amazon: Two Hot Dogs With Everything A portion of your purchase goes back to support this blog.

Title:          Top of the Order
Author:       John Coy
Target:        Grades 3-5
Series:         Yes, in a way.  The author uses the same group of four friends and writes about each sports season: baseball, basketball, soccer and football.
What this book is about:
This book focuses on the baseball season.  Jackson is at the end of fifth grade and looking forward to his team, the Panthers, being good this year. The problem is that they are lacking a good second base player.  When Jackson’s best friend, Gig, has a sister who turns out to be their best bet, tensions run high.  Can Gig forgive his sister for coming out for the team and invading his turf? Will Diego, their power hitter be able to save their season?  Will they be able to stay focused with Gig’s father about to deploy to Afghanistan?  At the end of the day Jackson really just want to play well and win ball games, but it isn’t as easy as he first thought!
Why I love this book: This book is engaging, with plenty of baseball.  The kids all face challenges but they don’t overwhelm the overall story or the baseball.  The characters are realistic and funny and the story is fast paced.  
While I thought the baseball sequences were well done, with enough tension and the right amount of baseball knowledge, I was also completely impressed with the classroom sequences.  The boys get a new writing teacher who engages them in a way their old teacher never could, and the author made that story line appealing and educational!  A book that makes school work as interesting as baseball, that was one I never saw coming!
Who this book is for:
Kids who liked Mat Christopher will enjoy these books.  They are a level up and more updated than their predecessor.
Final thoughts:
Top of the Order is just that!

To purchase this book, go to your local bookstore or click here to connect to Amazon: Top of the Order (4 for 4)  A portion of your purchase goes back to support this blog.

Title:          Mudville
Author:      Kurtis Scaletta
Target:       Grades 4-6
Series:        No
What this book is about: Roy McGuire lives in Moundville, nicknamed Mudville because it hasn’t stopped raining for the last twenty two years.  It started one fateful day when a baseball game between Moundville and a rival neighboring town got too heated.  They rain started, postponing the game, but then it never stopped.  Fast forward twenty two years, Roy’s father takes in a foster kid, who seems to have some baseball talent, and the rain mysteriously abates. Baseball can be played again in Moundville, and that reignites the old rivalry, with a rematch to determine who the rightful winner should be.  There is nothing like a twenty two year old rain delay to get excitement and expectations going!
Why I love this book: Ok, I have to be upfront here.  The first half of the book is fairly slow, with a lot of background info and character development.  I know I shouldn’t poo poo those things, but it doesn’t make for a riveting story.  The last half of the book is where this story really lights up.  If your child really likes baseball this is where the meat of the book resides and why you need to encourage them to keep going with this story.
I loved the baseball sequences!  Roy is a catcher and his insights on how players need to be positioned and what pitches to throw, gave me a new appreciation of how the game is played.  I also loved the way Roy seamlessly weaved percentages and statistics into the story, an essential element of baseball.  This kid knows baseball, and any child who loves the game will get new insights on how to play.  The games were also so well done that I couldn’t put the book down until I knew the outcome of each scrimmage!
Who this book is for:
Kids who love baseball will love this book.  Reminds me more of Mike Lupica so if your children enjoy his books, this one should be a good fit.
Final thoughts:
Any kid/parent will enjoy the game more after reading this story.

To purchase this book, go to your local bookstore or click here to connect to Amazon: Mudville  A portion of your purchase goes back to support this blog.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Mother's Day Books

Well, with Mother's Day right around the corner, I thought I would post two fun picture books that each get in the spirit of the day, in their own way. Hope you enjoy them and Happy Mother's Day to you!

Title:         Five Minute's Peace

Author:     Jill Murphy

Target:      Moms

What this book is about:
Mrs. Large is looking for five minutes of peace from her energetic children but no matter where she goes, her children seem to find her. She finally goes back to the kitchen where she started, and gets exactly "three minutes and forty-five seconds of peace."

Why I love this book:
There is not a mom out there who won't easily relate to this funny tale. I think kids will also see themselves in this story and perhaps, just perhaps, develop a little empathy for poor mom (but not until after they had played their tune for her on the recorder one more time.)

Who this book is for:
Any mom who hasn't gone to the bathroom by herself in years.

To purchase this book, click here for a link to Amazon: Five Minutes' Peace

 Title:          Mother's Day

Author:       Anne Rockwell

Target:        Preschool - Grade 2

What this book is about:
Mother's Day is coming, and each child in Mrs. Madoff's class is sharing what they will be doing on that special day.  Each two page spread in the book show a different family and the activity they have chosen, from hiking, to an art museum, to going out to diner.  The book ends with Mrs. Madoff introducing the kids to her mother and showing them a craft they can make at home.

Why I love this book:
I am a big fan of all of Anne Rockwell's books.  The illustrations are bright and engaging, different ethnicities are represented and the messages are simple and clear.

Who this book is for:
Great for all kids to get them thinking about their moms.

Sadly this book is currently out of print, so go to your local library and check it out!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Great Picture Books

As many of you know who read this blog, I am a HUGE fan of the picture book.  I don't believe that you should push children out of picture books in favor of chapter books.  Kids will gravitate to chapter books when they are ready.

There is no correlation between kids who love to read and how soon they move from one genre to the other.  In fact, I worry that kids who are moved ahead to fast could start to dislike reading.  Getting your kids into Harvard will not be dictated by whether they are reading chapter books by the age of four.  If they are reading them by one or two, well that's a different story, Harvard here they come ... but otherwise just let them enjoy a great picture book!

There is a comfort in picture books as readers and listeners linger over the illustrations, and find the subtleties and humor in the best books.  They engage readers and they teach kids to love reading.  So don't be in a hurry to give up this classic genre.

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Title:         Crafty Choe
Author:     Kelly DiPucchio
Target:      Preschool - Grade 2
What this book is about:
Chloe may not be good at sports, or video games, or dance, but she is good at making things.  When a girl in her class buys the birthday gift Chloe intended to give her best friend, she decides to make her best friend a present instead.  But can a handmade gift ever measure up to a store bought one?  Well, it turns out Chloe’s resourcefulness saves the day!
Why I love this book:
First of all, the illustrations by Heather Ross are inspired!  She absolutely catches every nuance of her characters from inspiration to indignation!  The story is just charming and readers will be inspired to get our their scissors and sewing kit.  There is even a website link were kids can learn how to make the items featured in the book!  Love it!  Wrap it up with great messages on friendship and a sense of humor and this book is a winner.
Who this book is for:
Kids who like to create.
Final thoughts:
Chloe says it best, “anything becomes less boring with goggly eyes on it.”

To purchase this book, visit your local bookstore or click here to link to Amazon: Crafty Chloe  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog.

Title:          What Animals Really Like
Author:       Fiona Robinson

Target:        Preschool-Grade 2
What this book is about:
The animal chorus is performing it’s latest work about what animals really like.  While some of the animals fit the bill: ” lions like to prowl, wolves like to howl, pigeons like to coo, cows like to .....dig?”  Some obviously do not!  When our composers finally stops the performance, he learns that the animals have interests that are very different from what he expected, which makes for a much sillier and entertaining performance!
Why I love this book:
Ok, my kids loved this book!  Monkeys who like all-you-can-eat buffets, skiing shrimp, and deep sea diving horses just make this book ridiculously fun.  This is a giggle a minute.  Of course the fact that the conductor is completely flummoxed while trying to keep order only adds to the amusement of the story!
Who this book is for:
Great read aloud, it will keep your group laughing!  
Final thoughts: My favorite books are the ones that turn expectations on their head, and this book delivers in spades!

To purchase this book, visit your local bookstore or click here to link to Amazon: What Animals Really Like  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog.

Title:          Everything I Need to Know Before I’m Five
Author:      Valorie Fisher
Target:       Preschool - Kindergarden

What this book is about:
Numbers, opposites, shapes, colors, the alphabet - it’s all covered here.  
With fabulous photographs of retro toys, our author gives us a colorful and slyly funny version of everything we should know!
Why I love this book:
As a parent who lived the these concepts with three children, I can say that this book is bright, imaginative and clever! You will enjoy the humor and fun as much as your child (maybe even more!)  The author has added details to every photograph that make them priceless.  There is nothing rote or boring about this book and you and your child will find it delightful!
Who this book is for:
Any child learning the basic concepts to get ready for kindergarten!
Final thoughts: 
This is the one basic concept book I wish I had had with my kids!

To purchase this book, visit you local bookstore or click here to link to Amazon: Everything I Need to Know Before I'm Five  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog.

Title:          Cooking with Henry and Elliebelly
Author:      Carolyn Parkhurst
Target:       Preschool - Grade 2
What this book is about:
Henry has started a pretend cooking show with his toddler sister Elliebelly.  Elliebelly, really isn’t old enough to be on the show, but Henry shows his good big brother spirit, with a little encouragement from his mom, and works her in.  The consequence - Elliebelly is probably the one really running the show!
What I love about this book:
Perfect play on the older responsible brother and the little sister who just wants to be included (her way!)   It is their interchange that gives the book humor and heart and it is laugh out loud funny.  In just the first few pages, Elliebelly insists that Henry wear a pirate hat and include her doll Baby Anne in the show.  When Henry complains to an offscreen mom, he hears the familiar refrain “Work it out, you two.”  And I can’t forget the recipe they are making, raspberry-marshmallow-peanut butter waffles with barbecued banana bacon.  Yum!
Who this book is for: 
Older siblings and younger ones, each will be able to relate to this brother and sister team.  
Final Thoughts:
Bon Appetite

To purchase this book, visit you local bookstore or click here for a link to Amazon:Cooking with Henry and Elliebelly  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog.