Sunday, September 23, 2012

Election Book Fever

Elections take on a new fervor every four years when we get to elect the President - the Grand Puba - the Leader of the Free World.  It is an exciting time to expose kids to books that help them understand the electoral process because they are surrounded by news about the candidates.

This post I have chosen books that are not only informative but funny, and I have even included a nonfiction book which is actually quite engaging (really it is!)

So may the best book win, and happy reading!

Title:       The Kid Who Ran for President

Author:   Dan Gutman

Target:    Grades 3 - 6

Series:     There is one sequel

What this book is about:
Judson Moon is twelve years old, and after a little convincing from his best friend Lane, he decides to run for president.  While he has no grasp on the issues, a running mate who is an elderly African American woman who used to be his babysitter and a first lady whose platform is to save the silkworm, Lane artfully masterminds Moon’s bid for the presidency as his campaign manager.  Can a twelve year old ever really win the election to become president, or is it all just a joke gone wrong?

Why I love this book:
First off, when my son is laughing so hard he can’t keep reading a section of the book to me, I know the story is a winner.  The clever wisecracks, and funny dialogue are perfect for this target group and it will keep them thoroughly engaged in this story.

Also, while this book is not a civics lesson, it does manage to sneak in quite a lot of good information on how to amend the constitution, the electoral college, journalistic integrity and campaign finance which I think will be especially useful information to know given the impeding election. 

Who this book is for:
This book is funny and at 155 pages, not overwhelming at all.  I think most kids will really enjoy the book and during this election year it will hold even more meaning!

Final thoughts:
A book where a kid could actually be president - how cool is that! 

To purchase this book, visit your local bookstore or click here to connect to Amazon: The Kid Who Ran for President  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog.

Title:       Fake Mustache

Author:   Tom Angleberger

Target:    Grades 3-6

Series:     No

What this book is about:
When Lenny’s best friend Casper decides to use his birthday money to buy the Heidelberg Handlebar Mustache Number Seven, and a man about town suit, no one could foresee the consequences!  The next thing Lenny knows, his friend is robing banks, buying companies and running for office.  Seems his fake mustache has a magical, hypnotic effect on others.  The only ones immune to it’s charms are Lenny and Jodie O’Rodeo, a preteen star of daytime television.  Can Lenny and Jodie save the world from Casper’s greed and his run for the presidency?

Why I love this book:
Well leave it to the author of Origami Yoda to come up with a story like this.  As utterly absurd as this book is, it just works marvelously.  From non stop action, cross dressing, a nasal gun that shoots out fake boogers to the ultra-sticky-stretchy grabber hand, this book has it all.  

Who this book is for:
Kids who love action, fun contraptions and humor will enjoy this book.

Final thoughts:
If ever confronted with the opportunity to purchase the Heidelberg Handlebar Mustache Number Seven - run, don’t walk away from this hairy monstrosity of evil.  That and never count out a has been, preteen daytime tv star.

You can see my son's review of this book at

To purchase this book, visit your local bookstore or click here to connect to Amazon: Fake Mustache: Or, How Jodie O'Rodeo and Her Wonder Horse (and Some Nerdy Kid) Saved the U.S. Presidential Election from a Mad Genius Criminal Mastermind  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog.

Title:       See How They Run

Author:   Susan E. Goodman

Target:    Grades 4 and up 

What this book is about:
This book is a lighthearted civics class on the history of our democracy, how the system works and interesting facts on the road to the White House.  It is filled with anecdotes, colorful illustrations and side bars with interesting tidbits.

Why I love this book:
This is the perfect example of how a complex topic can be written in a funny and comprehensive way for kids.  The narrator talks to the kids like they are intelligent, humor loving individuals that care about our country and our democracy, and I believe that children will respond by reading this book and absorbing the information.  One of my sons has read this book three times - just for fun!  It never reads like a book of facts but more like a conversation.

I also enjoyed that the book is full of relevant and timely examples.  Once you get into the book, the graphics are fabulous and perfectly on point.  The one criticism I have is that as perfect as the graphics are while you are reading the book, they don’t compel you to pick the book up, and I think kids will simply pass this one over because it doesn’t have anything that draws them in.

Who this book is for:
Great primer for kids on civics without feeling like required reading!  This book should speak to most kids, the biggest obstacle will just be getting them started.

Final thoughts:
This book is a clear winner!

To purchase this book, visit your local bookstore or click here to connect to Amazon: See How They Run: Campaign Dreams, Election Schemes, and the Race to the White House  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

My Favorite Picture Books Of the Year ... So Far

I am quite a fan of the picture book.  They are like little vignettes of humanity, told in twenty pages, with gorgeous illustrations and thoughtful life lessons.  Little kids are soooo lucky.

But I have to admit that in my house, my eight, ten and thirteen year old (yes you got that right, thirteen) still pick up picture books regularly and enjoy them.  Recently I brought home the new offering from Ole Konnecke, one of my favorite picture book authors ever, and my fifth grader just connected with the humor so thoroughly that he kept taking it around to his siblings asking if they had read this book.

The other picture book I am so excited about this year is This Is Not My Hat by J. Klassen, a companion book to his widely successful story I Want My Hat Back from last year.  It is not out until October, but I had a chance to read an advanced copy and it is just as delightful as its predecessor!  Look out for that one in the coming months.

I know, I say it over and over, but picture books are a wonderful thing.  Let your kids enjoy them for as long as possible!  Here are a few our family have recently enjoyed!

Title:       Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons

Author:   Eric Litwin and James Dean

Target:    Preschool - Grade 2

What this book is about:
Pete the Cat is wearing his favorite shirt which has four groovy buttons on it.  As each button proceeds to pop off, Pete counts down until he has no buttons left, but perhaps there is another button hiding in there somewhere!

What I love about this book:
Everything!  First it is a wonderful counting book as Pete counts down his lost buttons, and the illustrator includes the math equations on each page.  There is also an increadibly groovy song incorporated into the story that my daughter and I could not get out of our heads and have been signing for a week now.  You can hear the song on the website and the tune is easy enough, even for the musically challenged (yes that means me!)  

I also love the tone of the book.  As Pete loses his buttons, the author asks if Pete is upset, and the message is that all is good!  Buttons come and buttons go.  A nice reminder for both kids and adults.  Lastly the repetition in the book is delightful for kids as they can participate throughout the story, calling out the next line.

Who this book is for:
All kids should really enjoy the interactive nature and positive messages in this story, along with learning some early counting skills.

Final thoughts:
Pete the Cat is one groovy feline!  I dare you not to be singing his song throughout the day!

To purchase this book, visit your local bookstore or click here to connect to Amazon: Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons  A portion of each purchase goes back to support this blog.

Title:       Randy Riley’s Really Big Hit

Author:   Chris Van Dusen

Target:     Preschool - Grade 1

What this book is about:
Randy has two loves, baseball and science.  However, his talent does not lie in the former, but the later.  When he figures out that a fireball will be hitting earth and the adults dismiss him, he decides he will take care of this problem himself.  The solution - a giant robot who can hit that fireball with a bat and send it back to outer space.   Randy’s first home run!

Why I love this book:
First off I am a sucker for anything by Chris Van Dusen, so I have to admit that I was already predisposed to like this book.  His illustrations always feel like a thoroughly modern version of something vintage, which I believes leads to their charm.  Those small touches, like the math equation above Randy’s head as he is at bat, calculating the velocity and angle of the ball for the perfect hit, are just right on point.

The book is written in rhyme so it reads nicely and the message is just lovely.  He plays baseball just because he loves the sport, even if he isn’t very good at it, and that leads to even more success in the thing he is good at - science.

Who this book is for:
Nice book for all kids, but baseball and robot lovers should be particularly drawn to the story.

Final thoughts:
Another Home Run for Chris Van Dusen.  Please check out my review of If I Built a Car, another one of his inspired picture books.

To purchase this book, visit your local bookstore or click here to connect to Amazon: Randy Riley's Really Big Hit  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog.

Title:       Huff & Puff

Author:   Claudia Rueda

Target:    Preschool - Kindergarten

What this book is about:
This is an interactive story of the Three Little Pigs, where the reader gets to play the part of the big bad wolf, with a surprising twist at the end.  Each pig builds their house and invites the reader to huff and puff to blow that house down.  What the reader doesn’t know is that all that huffing and puffing at the house made of bricks serves a delightful purpose at the end of the story.

Why I love this book:
First off I love stories that really engage readers at a young age, and this story has them blowing and blasting that house with all their might.  Secondly, the illustrations are just wonderful.  The drawings are simple, but the look of that first pig after his house of straw goes down is just priceless.

I like stories that provide a fun twist on the original, which this story does.  Additionally, the story is not scary in the least, so if you have a child who might be slightly disturbed by the original version, this one will serve them quite well.

Who this book is for:
Great for all young kids, especially those who like to participate in the story.

Final thoughts:
A great retelling of a classic picture book.

To purchase this book, visit your local bookstore or click her to connect to Amazon: Huff & Puff: Can You Blow Down the Houses of the Three Little Pigs?  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog.

Title:       Chloe, Instead

Author:   Micah Player

Target:    Preschool - Grade 1

What this book is about:
Molly was hoping for a little sister just like her, but what she got instead was Chloe.  Chloe is nothing like her, which can be extremely irritating at times, but in the end maybe it’s ok.  Sometimes a sister to love is special enough.

Why I love this book:
First off the illustrations are absolutely inspired.  Player’s use of color just makes this book sing and draws you right into the story.  It also has a lovely message about appreciating your siblings for who they are and finding ways to enjoy being together.

Who this book is for:
Fun story for all kids, but those with younger siblings will especially appreciate this book.

Final thoughts:
A visual stunner!  I have included the book trailer for this one below!

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

Title:       Anton Can Do Magic

Author:   Ole Konnecke

Target:    Preschool - Grade 3

What this book is about:
Anton has a magic hat, which he is convinced has given him magical abilities.  His first attempt at making a tree disappear is a bit too ambitious, but when he decides to go smaller (think bird) low and behold he is successful.  Obviously the reader is in on to the fact that the bird simply flew away, but Anton is convinced of his magical prowess.  As he tries to convince his friends of his abilities, things get even more challenging (and funny.)

Why I love this book:
There are very few books that can do a deadpan style of humor at the picture book level, and Konnecke is masterful at it.  The other book, in recent memory, that nailed it as well is I Want My Hat Back.  

The illustrations are charming, with little touches that just made me laugh.  And the real humor in the story lies with Anton’s utter and complete belief in his ability to do magic.

Who this book is for:
Kids who likes I Want My Hat Back will be fans of Konnecke.  The humor is a little sophisticated so kids on the young end may not fully appreciate the book.

Final thoughts:
Houdini watch out, Anton is in town!

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

Sunday, September 9, 2012

More Stupendous Graphic Novels

Ok, this week I am sharing some graphic novels that really tickled my fancy!  As many of you who read my blog know, I am not a huge fan of graphic novels.  By that I mean I really don't enjoy reading a story in comic book form.  Maybe my eyes are going or maybe I am just old and crotchety, but I end up squinting every time I have to read what is in those talk bubbles!  However, I do recognize that these books are far more complex and creative than ever before, and they fill a wonderful reading niche for kids.  Lets just say I can appreciate the genre even if I need reading glasses to get through the first page.

This week I was surprised by the wonderful books I found.  Giants Beware is just delightful and I might have read it even if this wasn't my job.  Rapunzel's Revenge is a rootin tootin good time and I am still floored by the creativity of its authors.  Finally Mal & Chad is perfect for those boys who are moving out of early readers.

So I hope you enjoy this weeks post and happy reading!

Title:       Giants Beware

Author:   Rafael Rosado

Target:    Grades 2-4

Series:     Not at this point

What this book is about:
Claudette fancies herself a giant slayer and pity the fool who will stop her.  A wall has been built around her town to keep out the local baby feet eating giant and no one is allowed to leave its confines.  However Claudette, her brother Gaston and her best friend Marie decide that they will rid the town of this fear and venture outside the walls for the first time.  Will they be able to find the giant, and if they do, will they be able to neutralize the threat?

Why I love this book:
First off I sometimes have trouble with the illustrations in graphic novels.  They feel so small and overwhelming.  I can say that without a doubt, the illustrations by Joege Aguirre in this book are marvelous.  They are clear, full color and large enough to see all the details of the character’s surroundings and emotions.

Secondly, I just loved the characters themselves.  Claudette is feisty and determined but still needs her friends.  Her brother Gaston thinks he is a coward (and a gourmand) but comes through when it counts, and her friend Marie is an aspiring princess but not in the girly sense. in the sense of loyalty and kindness.

Who this book is for:
This book should appeal to all kids.  It is a fun/funny adventure with delightful characters.  If your kids liked Bone or Amulet, this series may be particularly tempting.

Final thoughts:
I hope there are more Claudette adventures to come!

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

Title:        Rapunzel’s Revenge

Authors:  Shannon and Dean Hale

Target:    Grades 4 and up

Series:     There is a sequel, Calamity Jack, which highlights another character introduced in this story.

What this book is about:
Think Rapunzel in the wild west, where Rapunzel is a braid wielding, spunky, determined girl.  The story follows the basic premise of Rapunzel, but in this case our heroine is independent minded, and feisty and she uses all her resources to get back at her captor and save the mother she loves.

Why I love this book:
Well Shannon Hale just continues to surprise me.  She takes the basic fairytale and is able to craft a modern, relevant story out it.  Her Newbery honor book The Princess Academy and The Goose Girl, were both fabulous retellings of classic stories, and this graphic novel, just takes the fractured fairytale to a whole new level.

Once again, when an author can change the way we look at something, in a compelling and entertaining way, I am always impressed.  Who would have thought of Rapunzel as an outlaw in the wild west - really, but it works.  The illustrations are also clear and a great fit for the story.

Who this book is for:
Kids who like their heroines clever and full of spunk!

Final thoughts:
Saddle on over and take a look at this book.  I am sure you will take a shine to it!

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

Title:        Mal and Chad

Author:   Stephen McCranie

Target:    Grades 2-5

Series:     Yes

What this book is about:
Mal is a nerd and a genius, but he hides this fact from everyone so that he can stay in school with his secret crush, Megan!  When Mal invents  an elevator that serves as a time machine, he and his talking dog Chad have the adventure of a lifetime with the dinosaurs.  However they crash as they return to present day.  When his broken time machine is found by Zachary, his school rival, Zachary creates a hole in the fabric of time.  Can Mal fix it?

Why I love this book:
This is a good graphic novel with a main character who is quite likable.  I always enjoy it when the geek is the hero of the story and when smart is celebrated.  There is also such a great and funny rapport between Mal and his dog Chad.

My one complaint is that the book is done in all black and white, which I know saves printing costs, but I would have enjoyed a little color in the story!

Who this book is for:
This book is a nice way to move into more complex stories for kids, especially those who are jumping from early readers to more substantial chapter books.

Final thoughts:
As the cover says, “The Biggest, Bestest Time Ever!”

To purchase this book, visit your local bookstore or click here to connect to Amazon: Mal and Chad: The Biggest, Bestest Time Ever!  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Books for Kids Hooked on Greek Myths

I have focused on this subject before, but there is no end to the voracious appetite that kids have, after finishing Percy Jackson, for their Greek myths.  Thankfully these stories have been around for quite some time, so Rick Riordan isn't the only author to give us another take on these mighty legends and larger than life deities.

This week I am introducing you to Myth-O-Mania, an extremely fun series with quite a humorous take on the Greek gods.  I also have a series from the UK, which may not be as well known here, but is quite popular across the pond.  And finally, I cannot leave out my beloved Norwegian gods and goddesses.  A fabulous retelling of an ancient Norwegian poem, in story format, rounds out my list.

Don't forget to like One Great Book on Facebook or follow us on twitter.  Links are on the bar to the right!  Happy reading!

Title:      Myth-O-Mania: Have a Hot Time, Hades!

Author:  Kate McMullan

Target:   Grades 4-7

Series:    Yes

What this book is about:
This book is a hilarious, tongue and cheek take on the Greek myths from the perspective of Hades.  Seems that Zeus overinflated his role in the overthrow of the Titans to become Ruler of the Universe.  Hades gives us a blow by blow description of the history of the gods, from Hades’ life in the belly of Cronus, to the epic kickball match that determined who would live in Olympus.  Also, we can’t forget the poker game that divided the realm.  

Why I love this book:
Any kid interested in Greek myths will devour this book.  This is such a funny look at these stories that I was laughing the whole time I was reading it!  But aside from the humor, the book does provide a great overview of the Titans, the Olympians and their children.  Without realizing it, your kids will improve their knowledge of these stories and the role of the gods.

Who this book is for:
Any child who is interested in Greek myths and who likes funny books.  This is a fast paced story and the type is larger so it is not at all intimidating for reluctant readers.

Final thoughts:
Leave it to the King of the Underworld to have the “true story!”

To purchase this book, visit your local bookstore or click here to connect to Amazon: Have a Hot Time, Hades! (Myth-O-Mania)  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog.

Title:      The Fire Thief

Author:  Terry Deary

Target:  Grades 4-7

Series:   This is a trilogy

What this story is about: 
This story is based on the myth of Prometheus, who is punished by Zeus for stealing fire from the gods and giving it to humans.  Prometheus manages to escape his punishment, but Zeus will not forgive him until Prometheus finds one true human hero.  A pair of magic wings and a trip to the future lead him to Eden City.  Here he meets Jim and Uncle Edward, two theatrical thieves, and their stories intertwine.

Why I love this book:
The book is not long, and it is a fairly easy read but it’s tone is funny with lots of sarcasm thrown it.  Comical footnotes throughout the book add an amusing touch.

I liked how the two stories came together.  Felt almost like two stories in one and the humor reminded me quite a bit of The Pig Scrolls!

Who this book is for:
If your child got obsessed with greek gods after Percy Jackson, this is a fun book to fuel their interest! 

Final thoughts:
A really spirited read for those interested in the greek gods!

To purchase this book, visit your local bookstore or click here to connect to Amazon: The Fire Thief (Fire Thief Trilogy, Book 1)  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog.

Title:      Thor’s Wedding Day

Author:  Bruce Coville

Target:   Grades 4-8

Series:    No

What this book is about:
This story is based on an old Norse poem about Thor, the Thunder God.  In this book, Thor’s hammer is stolen by the giants and the giants demand the hand of the goddess Freya as payment for its return.  Freya has no intention of being betrothed to a giant, so Thor must disguise himself as the goddess of love and beauty and try to convince the giants he is the real deal.  He has the help of his goat boy (our narrator) and Loki, a norse god better known for his ability to make mischief than anything else!  Will the ruse work, or will Thor’s hammer be lost forever?

Why I love this book:
Well first off, any book that entertains us with my beloved Norwegian myths is a winner!  But despite my obvious bias for the subject matter, Coville does a wonderful job of bringing the story to life, introducing us to some of the more colorful characters in Norse mythology and infusing some laugh out loud humor into this already clever story!

I was actually surprised by how much mythology Coville got into the book, and while it may slow the story dow a bit, it is a great primer for kids who may not be as familiar with some of the characters.

Who this book is for:
Kids who like mythology and those who like funny books.

Final thoughts:
In my humble opinion, Coville wrote the character of Freya a bit too temper mental, but thankfully her beauty is undisputed!

To purchase this book, visit your local bookstore or click here to connect to Amazon: Thor's Wedding Day: By Thialfi, the goat boy, as told to and translated by Bruce Coville (Magic Carpet Books)  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog.