Sunday, June 24, 2012

Great Books to Read Aloud to Kids

Now that summer is in full swing, I find I have more time in the evenings to read with my kids.  No homework or sports practices to bog us down in an evening frenzy.  Just some relaxed evenings where bedtime can stretch out if we want it to .... and generally my kids want it to!

Thought I would share some books that we have read aloud recently.  I read Fantastic Mr. Fox as a child and still have my original copy.  My children enjoyed it just as much as I did.  Nanny Piggins is destined to be a new classic, if my kids have anything to say about it, and Betsy and Tacy was a lovely mother/daughter read aloud, that while dated, gave us the chance to talk about what life used to be like.  Although, I had to keep reminding my daughter that my childhood was not quite similar to the late 19th century and that I did in fact have a car and not a buggy!

So I hope you have a chance to enjoy these with your family!  Don't forget to like One Great Book on Facebook or twitter to get updates on my latest reviews!

To see my other post on Great Read Aloud Books, click here: Reading Aloud Is a Gift We Give Our Kids

Title:          The Adventures of Nanny Piggins
Author:      R. A. Spratt
Target:       Grades 3-5
Series:        Yes.  There are several books published in Australia but only two of the books are currently available in the U.S.
What this book is about:
Nanny Piggins, a former circus performing bovine, has been hired by Mr. Green to be a nanny to his three children.  While the choice of a pig may seem unusual, at the cost of 10 cents an hour, she is too good a deal for Mr. Green to pass up!  Her ways are unconventional: chocolate as a main course, fun and amusement above all else, and a Russian bear as a sidekick.  However, her devotion to her charges is as unwavering as her love of chocolate cake.
Why I love this book:
This is the story of Mary Poppins if she gave into her sassy side.  Nanny Piggins is everything children wish they had but know they really can’t!  That is what makes her soooo much fun.   Nanny Piggins is not bogged down by rules, or conventions and kids will love her hair brained schemes planned to get the family out of trouble.
Each chapter is its own separate story, which makes it a great read aloud. But the stories do build on each other as the characters develop and Nanny Piggin’s becomes a special and intricate part of the family, giving the children the love they so desperately deserve. 
Who this book is for:
This book was written for children.  Nanny Piggins is not burdened by a strong sense of morality, which may bother some parents, but she is full of fun, and redeemed by her strong love and devotion to the children.  
Final thoughts:
”The most exciting saga about a flying pig nanny ever told.   There is a laugh on every page and lesson in there somewhere.  I recommend it highly.” Madeleine Albright.  A recommendation from the former US Secretary of State, now how many children’s books have that!
Plus I must give a shout out to the wonderful illustrator Dan Santat, who does of fabulous job of capturing the fun and lightheartedness of these characters.

To purchase this book, please visit your local bookstore or click here to connect to Amazon:  The Adventures of Nanny Piggins  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog.

Title:          Fantastic Mr. Fox
Author:      Roald Dahl
Target:      Grades 1-4
Series:       No
What this book is about:
This book is essentially about three farmers and a fox.  Mr. Fox has been stealing diner from the farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean for longer than they would like.  One day the farmers decide enough is enough and dig up that fox’s hole to put an end to him.  But the Fox family can dig faster and what ensues is a waiting game to see who will give up first, or is it?
Why I love it: First there is just the nostalgia of a book I enjoyed as a child.  I still have my original copy!  Second, my daughter loved the story and we were rooting for Fox and his little children, although at times I had to remind myself that Fox was not as innocent as he appeared.   In fact there were several small things that reminded me that it was a book from my childhood, such as getting over the shock of the farmers owning guns, something you just don’t read about any longer.  But the story holds up well over time!
Who this book is for: Great for all kids.  The chapters are short so it is an easy bedtime read.
Final thoughts: As the book cover says, “If you’re three years old or more you’ll love this extraordinary adventure story.”

To purchase this book, please visit your local bookstore or click here to connect to Amazon:   
Fantastic Mr. Fox  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog.

Title:          Betsy-Tacy
Author:      Maud Hart Lovelace
Target:       Grades 1-3
Series:        Yes
What this book is about:
Set at the end of the nineteenth century, Betsy’s whole world is Hill street, but there are no other girls her age to play with.  When Tacy moves in across the street, Betsy finds her one true best friend.  They bring out the best in each other and the book covers their adventures from the first day of school, to selling sand and making a backyard fort our of an old piano box.
Why I love this book:
This is good old fashion fun at its best and while the story is charming, it doesn’t shy away from some of the challenges of the times, like the death of Tacy’s little sister.  I don’t share this to scare you away from the book, it is handled deftly, but just to reinforce why this book remains in print after 70 years.  My daughter loved the innocence of the stories and we had a lot of fun talking about what life was like wayyyy back when!
Who this book is for:
This is a girl book through and through, hate to be so gender specific, but no reason to beat around the bush.  Great read aloud that takes you back to years gone by!
Final thoughts:
I wish I had had a friendship like this when I was five!

To purchase this book, please visit your local bookstore or click here to connect to Amazon: Betsy-Tacy (Betsy-Tacy Books)  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Great Kid's Books They Can't Refuse

The kids are all home for the summer.  Perhaps that brings out the godfather in me - the need to control the day, the bribery to get them to do the things I want and of course, the offers they can't refuse!

This weeks book selection is firmly rooted in the godfather theme.  The authors have used middle school as their setting and they each have a guy who can get things done.  But while the set up is fueled by gangsters, thankfully the messages are good clean fun!

So give them one of these books over the summer ... a wise guy move!

Don't forget to like One Great Book on Facebook or twitter to get updates on my latest posts!

Title:          The Big Splash
Author:      Jack E. Ferraiolo
Target:       Grades 5-7
Series:        No
What this book is about:
Think a gumshoe novel in style noir.  “The Frank,” a typical middle school, is run by Vinny Biggs and his gang.  Need a hall pass, a sugar high, a stolen exam, you have to go through Vinny.  Cross him and you’ll face his assassins, whose water guns hold your fate in their hands.  One squirt to the pants and you are in “the outs”  Our detective Matt is hired to find out who took out Nikki Fingers, once the most feared water shooter in school.  He only has a week or he may find himself in the outs as well.
Why I love this book:
I loved that this book kept me guessing until the end, but the real fun is the tribute to the old detective novels of the past.  It is filled, Bugsy Mallone style, with kid’s who will do anything for a pixie stick rush, a frazzled newspaper kid looking for a scoop, a sandwich shop in a garage where the kids hang out, and a girl who needs help, or does she?
I also love that in the end, our detective Matt is a great role model for kids.  This books touches on bullying, following the crowd, and trying to do things to feel accepted, but in the end what feels right is doing the right thing.
Who this book is for:
Great read for kids who like mysteries, fast paced stories and a lot of clever humor.
Final thoughts:
Crime never pays!

To purchase this book, visit your local bookstore or click here to connect to Amazon: The Big Splash  A portion of each purchase will go to support this blog.

Title:          The Fourth Stall
Author:      Chris Rylander
Target:       Grades 4-7
Series:        Yes
What this book is about:
If you need help with something, Mac is your guy.  Make that a sixth grade guy who operates out the the boy’s bathroom, fourth stall from the window.  However, when a new wise guy comes to the school and a third grader needs protection, it threatens to bring down Mac’s whole operation.  Can he save his business, his friendships and his reputation?
Why I love it:
The author clearly plays the godfather theme for the middle school set.  However, even with this premise Rylander manages to create a novel with well developed characters who of course encounter hardship, betrayal and forgiveness.  It is also a good mystery, and I must say it took me a while to figure out the mole in the organization!
Who this book is for:
Fun read for kids.  All the characters are boys, so it might sku towards the male perspective.
Final thoughts:
This is a book you should not refuse!

To purchase this book, visit your local bookstore or click here to connect to Amazon: The Fourth Stall  A portion of each purchase will go to support this blog.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Kid's Summer Reading List: Part 4/4

Whopee!  My final summer reading list.  But rest assured I will have reading recommendations posted every week throughout the summer!  This final summer reading list is for the:

Mom of a Teen/Tween

This list is for the mom who is hoping their little angel stays out of trouble for the summer.  Give them a good book and you know that for a few hours they are not sneaking computer times, playing video games or hanging out downtown/mall.

These books are page turners and they are sophisticated enough that your kids will want to read them.  So get out there and get your teen/tween reading.  They will love you for it in the end!  Don't forget to follow one great book on Facebook or twitter!

Also my kids just started their own book blog - one great book unplugged!  My oldest has posted one of his favorite teen/tween books so check it out for more summer ideas!

Title:          Divergent
Author:      Veronica Roth
Target:       Grades 6 and up
Series:        Yes
What this book is about:
Society is divided into five factions representing different personality traits: honesty, selflessness, bravery, peacefulness and intelligence.  All the sixteen year olds take a test to determine which faction best represents were they should spend the rest of their lives.  Some of those who go through the test find that their results are mixed aka divergent.  They must hide this fact and still commit to a faction where they will train and join, because being factionless means being abandoned by society.  Our heroine, Beatrice, finds she is divergent and this story follows her choices and struggles.
Why I love this book:
This book is FABULOUS!  I think it is as close as I have come to the excitement and edge of your seat thrill ride I had with the Hunger Games.  Each faction is so different and so extreme, that watching Beatrice find her place is fascinating.  There is the conflict that exists with her choice, the conflict within her pledge class and the conflict with the ideals vs. the reality of the factions.
I am struggling in not telling you too much because I don’t want to ruin the experience of the Choosing Day when Beatrice determines her faction, or the initiation into this choice!  Suffice it to say that you should set aside a chunk of time for this book because you will not be able to put it down.
Who this book is for:
If you loved the Hunger Games, this book is right up your alley.  There is violence, but I will say it is much less explicit than the Hunger Games and there is romance, but that too is pretty innocent.  
Final thoughts:
My son and I had quite a discussion about which faction we would belong to, which was fun.  But my final words are read this book, you won’t regret it!

To purchase this book, visit your local bookstore or click here to connect to Amazon: Divergent (Divergent Trilogy)  A portion of each purchase goes back to support this blog.

Title:          The Name of the Star
Author:      Mauren Johnson
Target:       Grades 6-8

Series:        No
What this book is about:
Rory has arrived to study in London, only to find that a Jack the Ripper copycat has surfaced and is recreating crimes from the past.  When Rory spots a man that police believe may be the murderer, she is confounded why her companion did not see him too.  Why can only Rory see him and why has she become his target?
Why I love this book:
This was a fun thriller.  While I would have liked a little more suspense, the supporting characters are well developed and quirky.  Rory is very likable and I was totally invested in her.  A ghost story intertwined with a mystery made it an entertaining read.  It was also fun learning the history of Jack the Ripper.
Who this book is for:
Kids who like a little horror.  While the murders are not described in minute detail, even the generalities are bit squeamish inducing.
It is also a fun book for girls who have thought about studying abroad.  Rory is living life as a high school boarding student in London, so the backdrop was one that I would have loved imagining when I was younger.
Final thoughts:
My favorite quote from the book “Fear can’t hurt you ... When it washes over you, give it no power.  It’s a snake with no venom.”

To purchase this book, visit your local bookstore or click here to connect to Amazon: The Name of the Star (Shades of London)  A portion of each purchase goes back to support this blog.

Title:          The Scorpio Races
Author:      Maggie Stiefvater
Target:       Grades 7 and up
Series:        No
Printz Honor Book (these are the Newbery’s for YA)
What this book is about:
This book is based on the Celtic myth of the water horses that rise from the ocean in the Fall.  They are wild, deadly and can sweep riders back into the ocean.  Every November islanders capture and train these horses to participate in the Scorpio Races.  In this book, Sean is racing so that he can keep the horse he has trained and ridden for as long as he can remember, and Puck is racing to keep her family homestead and her siblings together.  They both need to win this race, but their own survival is not guaranteed in these races.
Why I love this book:
This book actually surprised me.  I thought it would be more action oriented, and while it certainly has its climactic points, it is much more about the emotions and motivations of the two main characters.  One of the failings of the book is that it takes a little too long to get to the good stuff, so hang on for the first 100 or so pages and then you will be rewarded.
The voice of the book switches between Puck and Sean, which I always enjoy because it gives greater insight into the story.  I found myself actually enjoying the Sean segments more than Puck, but I think I found his story the more intriguing of the two.
Who this book is for:
This book is a little more sophisticated than some YA that I read, so for seventh and eight graders, I think the book will tend more towards girls.  I don’t mean to diss the boys, but emotions play a key role in the story and I don’t see a seventh grade boy connecting with the book on that level.  I still wish the race component had come faster and had been more action oriented because then I could recommend to boys as well.
Final thoughts:
This is a very thoughtful and engaging book.  I wanted to love it, the concept is fabulous, but I only liked it because the character development took too much space away from the action.

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

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Father's Day Books

Well we can't forget Father's Day on June 17th.  Thought I should post some fun books to share with Dad!  They are a perfect gift idea for the hard to buy for father.  Who wouldn't love to sit down on the couch with their little one and read a book about how great dad is, or how Darth Vader and son enjoy the day, or even plan a project to build with your handy dad!

I hope these books add some fun and appreciation for our fabulous fathers!

This is the perfect Father’s Day book and the dot illustrations are just charming.  Our hero - Dad - doesn’t have super strength (mom opens the jars,) he doesn’t have a force field (flying pea shooters can hit his nose,) and he can’t lift trains over his head (even the box of trains in the garage provides a significant challenge.)  What dad can do is spend time with his son, even when his son eats all the popcorn or beats him for the umpteenth time at battleship.
Fun humor that shows dad is not a superhero but instead a super good dad!  An endearing book with good chuckles thrown in!

To purchase, click here: My Dad, My Hero

The perfect Father's Day gift for the Star Wars loving dad!  Of course anything is funnier with Darth Vader, but this book presumes that the Dark Lord takes an active role in raising his son: taking him to the zoo, playing baseball (with light sabers) and going to "take your son to work day" on the Death Star.

While the jokes may be too subtle for younger kids, fathers will love the humor on managing a four year old combined with Star Wars references! 

To purchase, click here: Darth Vader and Son (Star Wars (Chronicle)) 

Handy Dad is a great book for the dad who loves to get out there with a drill bit and a circular saw!  The book is divided into Easy Projects, Afternoon Projects and Weekend Projects and provides step by step instructions for creating such things as a Water Pressurized Rocket, a Skate Longboard and a Go-Cart.

This is like a wish book of all the cool things kids would love to build and play on with their dad!  Now get out there and build a Water-Balloon Launcher!

To purchase, click here: Handy Dad: 25 Awesome Projects for Dads and Kids

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Kid's Summer Reading Lists: Part 3/4

Well I am now over halfway done on the summer reading lists!  This week I am tackling the:

Glass of Wine After Five Mom List

I know most of you are intimately knowledgeable about this mom.  This mom knows their kids shouldn't loose all the good stuff they learned over the school year.  But let's face it, at the end of the day, as long as they are reading something you aren't embarrassed to mention to your friends, all will be well.

For this list I have selected fun books that will leave them smiling, but they have enough heft to feel like your kids accomplished something by reading them over the summer.

So get out there and get your kids reading a book.  And make it a page turner because you don't want your kids to loose all that good learning over the summer.  Oh, come on, relax and have a glass of wine!

Title:          The Lemonade War
Author:      Jacqueline Davies
Target: Grades 3-5
Series:        Yes
What this book is about:
This story is about a brother and sister engaged in a good old fashioned lemonade war.  The crux of the story is which sibling can make the most money selling lemonade the week before school starts.  Evan is a people person, his sister Jessie is a math wiz, and between the two of them they figure out how to run a business.
Why I love this book: 
This book has real business lessons about profit margins, goodwill, location and value added. I love that it teaches kids basic business skills, without sacrificing an engaging story and believable characters.
The chapters are told from the perspective of both the brother and sister, so we get good sense of where each character is coming from.  The book tackles issues of pride, sibling rivalry and business ethics in a very readable manner!
Who this book is for:
Perfect for kids wanting to set up a lemonade stand this summer!  Because it is not a long book, it will not overwhelm a reluctant reader. My reluctant reader (who also loves math) picked this one out of a pile I had given him and was engaged until the end.  Great for any kid who wants to learn basic business concepts.
Final thoughts:
A fun read to introduce kids to basic business skills without sacrificing story!

To purchase this book, go to your local bookstore or click here to link to Amazon: The Lemonade War (The Lemonade War Series)  A portion of each purchase goes back to support this blog.

Title:          Gregor the Overlander
Author:      Suzanne Collins
Target:       Grades 4-8
Series:        Yes
What this book is about:
Gregor and his sister Boots are innocently doing laundry in their New York apartment one lovely day, when Boots (with Gregor close behind) falls down a grate into the Underworld beneath the city.  The Underworld  is a place full of giants cockroaches, bats, spiders, rats and a race of interesting humans.  Well to Gregor’s surprise, he is part of a prophecy involving a war with the rats, so he must stay a fulfill his destiny.
Why I love it:
Let me start by saying, that much to my surprise, I loved the cockroaches and the rats the best in this book - not so true in my real life.  The humans were actually the least interesting part of this book, aside from Gregor, whom I grew to love!  I must warn you that the first 100 pages of this book is really set-up for the series, and I found it much less interesting than the last 200 when the story and the characters really get going.  So don’t lose hope, and I would encourage your child to slug their way through the beginning to a wonderful adventure.
Suzanne Collins is the author of the Hunger Games series and this was her first children’s book series.  It is definitely appropriate for elementary school, and while it is not as well done as the Hunger Games, it is still a great read.
Who this book is for:
Kids who love an adventure into a fantasy world with some surprising humor thrown in.
Final thoughts:
You will never look at your household pests in the same way again!  Whether that is good or bad is up to you!

To purchase this book, go to your local bookstore or click here to link to Amazon: Gregor The Overlander (Underland Chronicles, Book 1) A portion of each purchase goes back to support this blog.

Title:          Amos Daragon: The Mask Wearer
Author:      Bryan Perro
Target:       Grades 3-6
Series:        Yes
What this book is about:
After a chance encounter with a dying mermaid, Amos, our hero, becomes the new mask wearer, a role that involves bringing balance to good and evil in this world.  His first challenge involves defeating a sorcerer who is looking for his skull pendant, which contains the egg needed to create a basilisk, one of the most fearsome mythological creatures!  Along the way he befriends a humanimal (a creature than can be either boy or bear) and must fight the Grogons, the descendants of Medusa.
Why I love this book:
I felt as though the book has two distinct parts, each of which I thoroughly enjoyed.  The first half, which sets up the story, involves telling folk tales of how Amos outwits those who are trying to control his destiny.  They reminded me quite a bit of stories I loved as a child and I think kids will really have fun with the riddles and logic that Amos uses to trick the bad guys.
The second half of the book gets us into the heart of the story, Amos fulfilling his destiny as the mask wearer.   It focuses on the friendships he forms, the quest ahead of him and the battles he must win. 
This story was originally written in French and so this US book is a translation.  The character development is a little weak, but the story flows well and there is lots of action.
Who this book is for:
A fun adventure book for kids.  There are quite a few mythological creatures in this book, so if that’s your child’s interest, they will be pleased to recognizing these characters.
Final thoughts:
An absolutely entertaining and engaging book!

To purchase this book, go to your local bookstore or click here to link to Amazon: Amos Daragon #1: The Mask Wearer  A portion of each purchase goes back to support this blog.