Sunday, July 29, 2012

Fun Books for Grades 4-6

Ok, summer is almost over and you realize that your kids have had fun in the sun, they have gone to sports camp, they have produced their umpteenth friendship bracelet and they have spent hours with the cousins.  But what they haven't done is READ A BOOK!

Well do not fear, it is never too late to get back on track.  School is still a few weeks away so now is the time to get them into a good book.  It will ease the transition, and it's fun.  This week I have stories about a competition at a toy factory, a science fair gone wrong and just to get them inspired, a hundred and one ways to bug their teacher come Fall.

Don't forget to like one great book on Facebook or follow us on twitter for updates on children's books, the link is on the bar to the right, and happy reading!

Title:          The Gollywhopper Games
Author:      Jody Feldman
Target:       Grades 4-6
Series:        No
What this story is about:
The Golly Toy and Game Co. is having a competition, the ultimate competition.  If Gil wins, his family will finally have the money to move out of a town that has turned their backs on him.  The only thing  standing in his way are 2,500 other contestants, a series of word puzzles, a bevy of math problems and some daring physical stunts.  
Why I love this book:
Fun, fun, fun!!!  It is a little bit of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and a little bit of The Candymakers, but still its own book.  The puzzles are challenging and I found myself trying to figure them out along with the contestants.  The characters are strong and well written, and I loved that I was rooting not only for Gil, but for many of the other contestants as well.  The book is paced well and I found it hard to put down.
Who this book is for:
All kids will enjoy this entertaining adventure in a toy factory.
Final thoughts:
A winner!

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

Title:          Science Fair
Authors:     Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
Target:       Grades 4-8
Series:        No
What this book is about:
Ok, I know this will sound crazy but here goes.  Grdnkl the Strong, from Kprshtskan, is trying to destroy the US government.  His plot hinges on the science fair at Hubble Middle School.  At Hubble, some of the rich kids are buying their science fair projects and Toby, our main character, in an attempt to stop these kids, stumbles upon the terrorists.  Toby does this while evading two ebay buyers named Darth and Wookiee who believe the Star Wars blaster he sold them is a counterfeit.  Really it all makes sense when you read the book!
Why I love this book:
This book is completely over the top and that is what makes it hilarious!  Where else can you read about the Tournament of the Fighting Death Hamsters (aka a hamster staring contest,) intense Star War collectors, a stolen Wienermobile, and terrorists from a country of few vowels!   Surprisingly, it is also full of suspense and action.
Who this book is for:
Kids who love funny books.
Final thoughts:
I dare you not to enjoy this book.

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

Title:          101 Ways to Bug Your Teacher
Author:       Lee Wardlaw
Target:       Grades 4-6
Series:        Yes.  This is the 2nd is a series of three but each book can stand alone.
What this story is about:
Our main character Steve (or Sneeze) is an inventor with inventor’s block.  Because of his strong academic skills, his parents are trying to have him skip a grade and move up to high school.  Since this is not a plan he approves of, he comes up with his own plan to bug the teachers so badly they won’t recommend he skip a grade.  However, as you can guess, his plans get foiled and he must deal with the heart of the situation, which is his fear that he has lost his inventing talent which he believes is the key to his academic prowess.
Why I love this book:
Let me start by saying that despite the title of the book, and the actual list of 101 ways to bug your teacher (which are really funny) the kids in this book do respect their teachers and parents.  So fear not. This was a nice, fun book about a kid navigating middle school and managing expectations.  He is surrounded by a friend who can’t stop hiccuping, one who speaks in a fake french accent and one who is too cool for school.  They add humor and levity to the story. 
All the covers on these books have been redone, and thank goodness because the one I have is beyond bad!
Who this book is for:
Kids who like realistic fiction and perhaps those who want to learn how to get under their teacher’s skin!
Final thoughts:
This probably isn’t the best classroom book!

To purchase this book, please visit your local bookstore or click here to connect to Amazon: 101 Ways to Bug Your Teacher  Aportion of each purchase goes to support this blog.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Fun Picture Books

This week I thought I would do some summer housecleaning and post fun picture books I have come across.  They didn't necessarily fit into any category, but they were very entertaining to my kids and they deserve a shout out.  So here's to some clever picture books I thinks your kids will enjoy!

Don't forget to follow me on Facebook or twitter to get updates on the blog and relevant news in children's literature.  The links are on the bar to the right.  Happy reading!

Title:         Three Hens and a Peacock
Author:     Lester Laminack
Target:      Preschool - Grade 2
What this book is about:
When a peacock unexpectedly shows up at the Tucker’s farm, his fancy plumage brings in all sorts of buyers to their produce stand,  The hens get their feathers in a ruffle thinking the peacock is all show and no work.  They make a deal with the peacock to trade places - the peacock lays the eggs and the hens attract crowds to the produce stand.  After a lot of hard work, and no results, they all realize that they each have their own unique talents they should appreciate!
Why I love this book:
First, illustrator Henry Cole does a wonderful job with those hens.  He captures their outrage, their fancy duds and their exhaustion with brilliance. 
This is also a wonderful read aloud book.  The illustrations are bold and striking and the absurdness of peacock laying eggs in the hen house and the hens stoping traffic with their fancy duds just lends itself to children laughing!  Of course the ending also leaves us hanging.....
Who this book is for:
Great for all kids.  Nice lesson on appreciating your talents.
Final thoughts:
This book won the Children’s Choice Book Award for picture books, which is voted on by actual children, so there is no doubt that it will be a crowd pleaser!

To purchase this book, visit your local bookstore or click here for a link to Amazon: Three Hens and a Peacock  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog.

Title:          Oh No, George
Author:     Chris Haughton
Target:       Preschool - Kindergarten
What this book is about:
George is left alone by his owner, and while he promises to be good, sometimes it is just too hard and he gives in to temptation - digging up flowers and eating cake.  However, after a heartfelt apology to his owner, who has returned home, George uses his new will power to resist temptation on their walk outside.   But can a garbage can prove just too enticing to resist?
Why I love this book:
First I really enjoyed the interactive nature of the book.  Our narrator asks, “what will George do?” and kids have to predict how he will behave.  Secondly, the illustrations are bold and with such vibrant colors that they are immediately appealing.  Lastly, I love the book’s message.  George owns up to his mistakes and works hard on his self control, showing that he can be responsible for his behavior.  
Who this book is for:
Kids who love interactive books.  A great read aloud book.
Final thoughts:
Temptations that are too good to resist...perhaps there is a little George in all of us.
To purchase this book, visit your local bookstore or click here for a link to Amazon: Oh No, George!  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog.

Title:          That’s How!
Author:      Christoph Niemann
Target:       Preschool- Kindergarten
What this book is about:
In this book, a girl is wondering how things work.  Her friend looks at a a steamroller and imagines two bears rolling over and over being tickled by a bird.  Her friend imagines an airplane that is flown entirely by flapping chickens!  The explanations get more and more creative until they get to a bicycle, were the girl’s explanation triumphs over all.
Why I love it:
The words are simple but have a lovely cadence!  Also, it is so much fun for kids and adults to imagine whimsical alternatives to everyday things.  The illustrations are also bold and delightful.
Who this book is for: Children with a wonderful sense of curiosity.
Final thoughts: I hope Niemann comes out with more books on how things work.  I have always wondered what goes on behind this computer screen - a rat maze perhaps?
To purchase this book, visit your local bookstore or click here for a link to Amazon: That's How!   A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog.

Title:          Potty Animals
Author:      Hope Vestergaard
Target:       Preschool-Grade 2
What this book is about:
You have potty trained you child, the work is done...or is it?  Now it is time to focus on toilet habits!  If you know any children who are afraid to flush, have bad aim or don’t zip up, then this book may do the trick.  With really clever rhymes, the children of Sycamore preschool learn potty etiquette!
Why I love this book:
The rhymes for each lesson are cute and funny without ever being gross!  And really, who doesn’t love a little bit of potty humor!
Who this book is for:
Kids who are already potty trained but need to be reminded to use good habits. (or teenage boys!)
Final thoughts:
I give it the five flush salute!

To purchase this book, go to your local bookstore or click here for a link to Amazon: Potty Animals: What to Know When You've Gotta Go!  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sixty Impossible Things Before Lunch and Other Absurd Books

I don't usually focus on one author/illustrator for my blog, but this week I am shaking things up.  I thought it would be a wonderful time to introduce you to Harriet Russell, an illustrator from the UK, who also happens to add the most delightful words to her drawings.

I think I fell in love with her books because she has a quirky way of looking at things, but even more than that, the quirkiness is always impossibly funny.  And anyone who reads this blog knows, a book full of clever humor gets me every time!

Harriet Russell's book repertoire is small, but what she lacks in quantity she certainly makes up for in quality.  So let me introduce you to two of my favorite children's books.

Sixty Impossible Things Before Lunch
I bought this book because I have a son who says without wavering, "nothing is impossible, there is always a chance it could happen."  He will say this EVERY time I say something is impossible.  You might think he would forget a time or two, or be distracted and not hear me, but noooooo, he says it EVERY time.  So when I saw this book, I immediately knew he had to have it.  Sixty impossible things and that was just before lunch, by god I had him this time.

The book is beyond clever.  The impossible things it covers are:

Chocolate Teapot (it would melt)
Meet everyone in the world (there are 6.8 billion at current count)
Get parallel lines to meet
Answer the question "which came first, the chicken or the egg" (although she illustrates a wonderful debate between the chicken and the egg as they try to figure it out.)

And that is just the beginning, there are also questions with so many answers it is impossible to pick one and puzzles that are impossible to solve.  The illustrations are absolutely inspired and simply add dimension to the perplexing questions.

Well my son loved the book, and he accepted the challenge.  The problem is that if you look and care enough, some things that seem impossible just may not be ... so we are both keeping an open mind.

The Utterly Pointless Counting Book
This book isn't really a book, it is an accordion fold that counts up to eleven (of course, eleven.)  But that is not the only way this counting book is like nothing you have ever seen.  To share a few examples:

1 pigeon (surrounded by a lot of other pigeons,)
3 coats of paint on a wall,
10 cakes that have been eaten and
11 ostriches with umbrellas "only you can't see them because there is a rather large mountain in the way."

This is counting in the absurd!

I think our whole family loves the the absolute farcical nature of this book/accordion fold.   Obviously the hilarity is in the ridiculousness of each number description.  I think for younger kids it may be an interesting way to challenges their view of numbers, but this book never takes itself seriously, and that is where it gets its unending charm.

Sadly Harriet Russell's books are not readily available in the U.S., but you can purchase them through her website:  They are well worth the effort.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Books That Help Kids Make Smarter Food Choices

Never before have we been so removed from our food source!  So many children have absolutely no understanding of where their food comes from, or how many resources it takes to simply make the lunch they take for granted every day in their lunch box.  Thankfully there are some wonderful books, targeted for children, which will help them connect the dots from field to table.

The wonderful picture book How Did That Get In My Lunchbox gives the youngest audience a early view of how the food in their lunchbox is made.  The other two books were adapted from their very successful adult counterparts, Omnivore's Dilema and Fast Food Nation.  Omnivore's Dilema:Young Readers Edition gives them a wonderful understanding of the many ways food gets to us and how the choices we make have a direct effect on the world around us.  After one chapter of Chew On This, your kids may never eat in a fast food restaurant again!

I hope this weeks selections give you some great tools to get your kids informed and smarter when they make choices about what they eat.  Imagine how proud you will be when they pass on the fries and ask for that organic apple.  Ok, I may be a little ahead of myself but know they will never look at their diner plate the same way again.

Don't forget to follow one great book on Facebook and twitter.  Links are on the bar to the right.  Happy reading!

Title:          How Did That Get In My Lunchbox
Author:      Chris Butterworth
Target:       Preschool - Grade 2
What this book is about:
This book takes a look at what is in a kid’s lunchbox, and shows children how their food got there.  It takes you from the fields, to the processing, to the store.  You learn what goes into a slice of bread, how milk is turned into cheese and even shows the cocoa pods where the chocolate beans come from - all the way to the chocolate chip cookie!
Why I love this book:
First off it is a wonderful introduction for kids who probably never thought about the origin of their lunch food.  We are currently so removed from the food chain, that it gives children a colorful introduction to just what it takes to get that food onto the shelf at a store. 
Additionally, I love the illustrations by Lucia Gaggiotti.  They are bright and fun with a classic retro feel.  The pictures alone will get kids to pick up this book.  I know all of my kids grabbed it off the table when I brought it home, with no prodding at all. 
Who this book is for:
All kids.  A wonderful way to start talking with them about the origins of what is on their plate.
Final thoughts:
Now if someone could just tell me how to stop my kids from eating their desert first!

To purchase this book, please visit your local bookstore or click here to connect to Amazon: How Did That Get In My Lunchbox?: The Story of Food  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog.

Title:          Omnivore’s Dilemma: Young Readers Edition
Author:      Michael Pollan
Target:       Grades 6 and up
What this book is about:
This book is adapted from Pollan’s adult book by the same title.  The book is divided into four sections: The Industrial Meal (what you buy at a typical grocery store), Industrial Organic Food (organically sourced food at large level such as Whole Foods), Local Sustainable (small farms and farmer’s markets) and The Do It Yourself Meal (what you can grow and hunt yourself.) 
Pollen talks about the cost to society of each type of meal, from political, to social, to economic.  His philosophy is that you can’t make good decisions about your food unless you are informed.
Why I love this book:
This book really does change the way you look at food, and if you give this book to your child, be prepared to make some changes in your own shopping habits!  I like that Pollen looks at the science behind how food is produced.  This is more than a book about sourcing our food, but also a look at the chemistry involved in producing the food we eat.
The book can read a little like research at times, which means both my son and I skimmed in some places, but the overall message is so surprising and compelling for kids that even by skimming in spots they will take away quite a bit.
It spurred so many great discussions around the dining room table that even my younger kids, who have not read the book, learned an amazing amount about our food.  All three of them now refuse to go to McDonalds.  So perhaps that’s another incentive to get your kids reading it!
Who this book is for:
I think that most kids will be so surprised by what they learn regarding our food chain, that even more reluctant readers will be drawn into this book.
Final thoughts:
I personally felt the adult version was a little technical for me, I actually enjoyed the younger version of the book quite a bit more!

To purchase this book, please visit your local bookstore or click here to connect to Amazon: The Omnivore's Dilemma for Kids: The Secrets Behind What You Eat  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog.

Title:          Chew On This
Author:      Eric Schlosser & Chalres Wilson
Target:       Grades 5 and up
What this book is about:
This is a behind the scenes look at the fast food industry.  The book takes on the history of fast food, how the meat and chicken are obtained, the influx soda and how fast food has lead to national obesity.  
Why I love this book:
No child can be ignorant of the effects of fast food after this book.  I will say the book is fairly one sided, and I think that Ominvores Dilema does a better job at giving kids a wholistic view of the food industry, but kids should be aware of the choices they make when they chose a Big Mac!
This book is more readable than Omnivores Dilema by including stories in each section that illustrate the author's point.  It reads more like little vignettes than non fiction and is not as heavy on the science.  I think most kids will be shocked by what they read and look at food in a whole new way.
Who this book is for:
This book does describe the killing of livestock.  While it is fairly matter of fact, if you have a child that can’t handle that kind of information, I would hold off on the book until they are older.  If you are trying to get your kids to eat better, this book will shock them out of fast food.
Final thoughts:
Don’t read this book if you ever want to go to McDonalds again!  After this book, those days are gone.

To purchase this book, please visit your local bookstore or click here to connect to Amazon: Chew On This: Everything You Don't Want to Know About Fast Food  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Fun Graphic Novels for Kids

Summer is a great time for kids to delve into a graphic novel.  One of the goals of the summer break should be to keep kids reading.  Graphic novels don't feel as serious or academic as a classic novel, making them a little more palatable for kids on vacation.  I also have two recommendations that should especially appeal to girls.

Graphic novels feel a little like cheating....but because of the development of the genre, they have become sophisticated storytelling devices that get kids to pick up a book, and as always, the more reading they do, the better they will become at it, even with graphic novels!  So consider these recommendations like sneaking zucchini into the brownies.  They will be getting their vegetables, but be none the wiser!  Go on, have another bite!

Don't forget to follow me on Facebook or twitter to get updates on all my latest blogs.  The links are on the bar to the right!  Happy reading.

Title:          Zita the Spacegirl
Author:      Ben Hatke
Target:       Grades 3-6
Series:        The second book will be released in September
What this book is about:
When our heroine Zita finds a big red button which looks to have fallen from the sky, she can’t resist pushing it, but really who could!  When a portal opens up and her friend is pulled in, Zita must go down that portal to save her companion.  She enters a world of varied and strange intergalactic creatures, on a planet which is about to be hit by an asteroid.  Can she save her friend and get out before this world is destroyed?
Why I love this book:
This book is fun and the story feels amazingly complex, which I think is sometimes hard to master in graphic novels.  I also got a good sense of the personalities of the characters, which was accomplished with both the text and the pictures, making it a very well developed book.    
Who this book is for:
Boys and girls will find the story equally compelling and fun, despite the main character being a girl.  Good graphic novel for the older elementary school crowd.  If your kids like the Amulet series, this book would be a good fit.
Final thoughts:
A fun book filled with weird and wacky characters.

To purchase this book, visit your local bookstore or click here to connect to Amazon: Zita the Spacegirl  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog.

Title:          Sidekicks
Author:      Dan Santat
Target:       Grades 3-5
Series:        No
What this book is about:
Captain Amazing, our aging superhero, decides he needs a sidekick.  His three household pets, a dog, a hamster and a chameleon decide to try out for the job.  But when the competition heats up among them, Captain Amazing’s old sidekick and former pet cat, Manny, arrives on the scene to try and train them.  Of course in the midst of all this, the nefarious Dr. Havoc has stollen the DNA Transfer Device and is attempting to gain Captain Amazing’s superpowers.
Why I love this book:
The artwork in this book is incredible.  I love a graphic novel with full color illustrations and the book just jumps out at you.  Additionally, the characters are well done.  Manny the cat has the wry wisdom of experience.  Roscoe the enthusiastic dog, is itching for his first big break.  Fluffy the hamster learns that you don’t need to be the biggest guy in the room to get the job done and Shifty the chameleon is always there to help out a friend.
Who this book is for:
I think most kids will enjoy this book, especially those who are into superheroes!
Final thoughts:
Dan Santat is a wonderful illustrator who has used his powers for good!

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

Title:          Fashion Kitty
Author:      Charise Mericle Harper
Target:       Grades 2-5
Series:        Yes
What this book is about:
When a set of fashion magazines fall on her head, Kiki Kitty becomes superhero Fashion Kitty.  Her mission is to save others from being fashion victims.  When the mean kitty on the block, Priscilla Persian, tries to trick Mary Jane Tabby into wearing polka dot shorts over her pants, Fashion Kitty saves the day by saving the outfit and the friendship.
Why I love this book:
This is just a fun graphic novel.  There are nice lessons on friendship, and the fashion tips are about following what works for you, not the latest trends.  The illustrations are cute too.
Who this book is for:
Girls who liked Baby Mouse should also be drawn to Fashion Kitty. 
Final thoughts:
A family of cat vegetarians who have a pet mouse, and a little sister who prefers her underwear outside of her tights, what is not to love.

To purchase this book, visit your local bookstore or click here to connect to Amazon: Fashion Kitty (Bccb Blue Ribbon Fiction Books (Awards))  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog.