Sunday, December 15, 2013

More Books to Give for the Hoildays

Ok, the Christmas fun continues!  I thought this week I would share my purchases for my niece and nephews.  Each year they hope beyond hope I will get them a toy, a train or Legos, but without fail Aunt Freya gives them a book!  It may not be the present that elicits the most excitement on Christmas day, but I guarantee it gives them the most pleasure throughout the year.  At least that's what I keep telling them.

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Books for my 11 year old nephew

My nephew is a voracious reader and it is really hard for me to find books he hasn't seen yet.  But this year I have it in the bag (yes, I cheated and went over the list with his dad - what are you, the book police?)

Eye of the Minds by James Dashner.  This is the latest from the author of Maze Runner and both my son and his cousin will love talking about the virtual world created in this book.  This is about gammers who have to hack into the computer code to find a villain who has infultrated the game as the lines between real life and virtual worlds become confused.  The ending is a great surprise that I think will have them both floored.

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud.  In this new series, ghosts have infiltrated London, and they can be downright viscious.  Only kids are able to sense their presence so they are sent in to try and exterminate them.  It is a dangerous job and when Lockwood and Co. finds themselves on the brink of bankruptcy, the three children who run the agency must take a case that no one has succesfully solved, and by that I mean no one has left the house alive.

Books for my 8 year old nephew

Ok, this kid is baseball obsessed.  I love his birthday because all I have to do is renew his subscription to Sports Illustrated Kids and I'm a hero.  Last year I gave him the National Geographic Weird but True books, which were ... well how shall I say it ... a dud.  So this year I have wised up and I am going sports all the way.

Sports Illustrated Kids Full Count: Top 10 lists of Everything in Baseball.  This is as close to a home run as I am going to get.  This kid loves baseball facts and put the most fun ones in a top ten list and I am a hero again!

Sports Illustrated Kids Big Book of Why Sports Edition.  My nephew gave my son a book about the obscure rules of baseball, so I know he will love learning about all the funky trivia associated with the sports he loves.

Books for my 6 year old nephew

Can you say Lego?  Well he certainly can.  He loves to build so I am not taking any chances this year.  I have nothing intelligent to say about the choices other than they are Lego and Chima and they come with cool little lego minifigures.  Yessss, hero again.

Books for my 5 year old nephew

I love it when I can still buy picture books for kids.  I love picture books.  This year I getting my nephew some good ones:

Battle Bunny by Mac Barnett and John Scieszka.  In this book, Mac and John take a sappy version of a book called Birthday Bunny and turn it into Battle Bunny. Alex, the books recipient, takes his pencil and makes this a book he would like to read about a bunny's secret evil plan, that only Alex is able to stop.  It is the book most kids would like to write and allows kids to be the ultimate storytellers.

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt.  Poor Duncan can't color anymore, all the crayons quit.  However, they have left letters with their grievances.  Peach is a little perturbed that Duncan has taken his wrapper off - he hates to be naked.  Blue is flattered that he gets used so much, but now he is just a nub and Duncan really needs to start using some of the other colors.  Pink insists he is not just a girl color and that Duncan should find places for him ... and the list goes on.

Books for my 2 year old niece

Yes there is a girl in the group!  You weren't so sure there were you?  Well this little one is getting more sturdy fare that covers the basics.  This year I am going with alphabet and counting books.  Usually I just go for the laughs, but these books are so creatively done, that I think I will shock her parents with something more cerebral.

Alphablock by Christopher Franeschelli.  This book actually incorparates the letters into the peekaboo format where children can guess the word that begins with the letter.   I also like the books retro feel - my niece is one cool cookie.

Circus 123 by Guido van Genechten.  This is is a fun counting book where the ladybug performers take center stage.  Once again, I am a sucker for the visuals and they are strikingly done in red and black.  These ladybugs are daredevils and not afraid of the high wire!

Hope you enjoy all these selections and that they give you inspiration for your holiday gifts.  Happy Holidays.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

This Little Piggy for Picture Book Friday

It's Picture Book Friday, and this week all the little piggies have come home.   Yes, I love this book because it doesn't play favorites.  Finally in the "This Little Piggy" rhyme, all the toes get their due ... and isn't it about time?

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Title:       This Little Piggy

Author:   Tim Harrington

Target:    Preschool

What this book is about:
We all know the traditional “This Little Piggy” rhyme, but what about the other foot?  I mean our first foot gets roast beef and wee! wees! all the way home, but on the other foot ... nothing.  Well this book rectifies all that.  Now our other toes get to go dancing, fly planes and build spaceships.  Lets just say our first piggies who went to market get a little jealous and they want in on the action.  So off they go racing go karts and chewing gum, which leaves all our piggies tired out and ready for bed!

Why I love this book:
I would have adored reading this one to my kids when they were younger.  The fun of making those toes do so many crazy things would have delighted my little ones.  I even love how Tim Harrington makes the pinky toe scenario take up the whole page as the toe builds a spaceship, flies it to outer space, meets aliens who teach him new games and on and on!  I don’t think any of your kids will be able to resist the charm of these little piggies!

The one quibble I have with the book are the illustrations.  They aren’t bad, they just could have been so much better and I think it would have elevated the book a bit more.

Who this book is for:
Great bedtime book for kids who like to giggle and share some bonding time with their parents.

Final thoughts:
No socks or shoes are allowed during the reading of this book!

Purchase this book:
To purchase this book, click on the following link to connect to Amazon: This Little Piggy  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog at no cost to you.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Books for Under the Tree

My tradition at Easter is to always share my kid's book baskets to give you inspiration for your own baskets.  I thought, in that vein, I would share with you the books I am putting under the tree this year for my family.  Now in this family books are a necessity and not a luxury (yes, kind of like socks) so I can't say my kids are chomping at the bit to rip into those beautifuly wraped packages with same glee as say an American Girl Snack Cart or an ITunes Gift Card.  But when the madness of flying paper is over, they do pull out the new additions for a quieter moment and that always warms my heart.

If you would like to purchase any of the selections recommended here, simply click on the picture (or the bottom of each review if you are reading my regular posts.)  It will take you to Amazon where I will receive a portion of the selling price, at no cost to you.  If you enjoy the blog and have benefited from the reccomendations provided you can think of it as your gift to keep more great book reviews coming your way.  While this is certainly a labour of love, I pay for the books that I purchase, not to mention the time it takes to put these posts together and read hundreds of books a year.  So any dollars I receive go back into improving the quality of what I can provide.

Books for the 14 year old boy:

This year is about the graphic novel because there have been so many terrific new releases for this age group.

Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang is about the Boxer Rebellion in China.  In Boxers the story is told from the point of view of Little Bao, a Chinese peasant whose village has been plundered by Western missionaries.  In Saints we see the story from the perspective of Vibiana who is taken in by Christians when her village has no place for her.  These books bring history to life and I think my son will enjoy the conflict and the variying perspectives.

Battling Boy by Paul Hope.  This book has been described as bringing the themes of Superman, Batman and Hercules into a dystopian future.  Battling Boy is sent down for the Olympian lighting cloud in a test of manhood.  It has all the elements that a boy should love.

Mad Magazine Subscription.  I remember this magazine from when I was young, and my teenage son will love the irreverant humor.  Definelty not for the younger kids, but teenagers will eat this one up.

Books for the 12 year old boy:

Make no mistake, I have a son who is computer obsessed.  However, I have found that computers and books do not have to be mutually exclusive.  Let me explain:

Eye of the Minds by James Dashner.  In this latest series by the author of Maze Runner, readers are taken into a virtual world.  Michael is an expert gamer who is immersed in the addictive game of Lifeblood Deep.  His advanced hacking skills have gotten him recruited to look for someone who is holding players hostage in the game.  The rules between the seperation of the game and real life are changing.

Journey to a Different Dimension: An Adventure in the World of Minecraft by Stan Schatt.  While I think most parents will not find this book particularly compelling, kids who love Minecraft will really enjoy seeing their world as a setting for this story. It follows three kids stuck in the game who must essentially play the game from within to get themselves out.   Great pick for the most dedicated of Minecraft fans.

Sport Illustrated Kids Subscription.  My son loves sports.  That's all I've got.

Books for the 9 year old girl:

Strangely this one is the hardest for me because my daughter is an insanely picky reader!

Roald Dahl Magical Gift Set.  Roald Dahl is just a wonderful author and I like the idea of a set of books.  However, he has so many wonderful titles that just picking out a few favorites such as The BFG and The Twitts (two of my favorites) would also make a delightful gift for any child 7-12.  I have yet to meet a kid who doesn't love his books.  This is as close to a sure bet that I can give you.

The Best of Archie Comics.  Ok, our secret is revealed.  We are Archie fanatics in this house.  I brought a few home because I loved them as a child, and my kids are now addicted.  We keep them in the car to read on longer rides and in a basket in the family room.  My kids pick them up for a quick read anytime.  They are enjoyed by both boys and girls in our family.

American Girl Magazine Subscription.  I think magazines are a great Christmas gifts for kids.  My daughter gets National Geographic Kids every year for her birthday.  The kids look forward to the mail and it gets them reading immediately when a new issue of their magazine comes in the door.  My daughter also has a subscription to Discovery Girls Magazine, which is an alternative to American Girl.


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Journey for Picture Book Friday

Well this may be my last post with a Caldecott contender for the year.  The holidays are coming and the award will be given out in January, so that doesn't leave a lot of time for speculation.  Yes, the most distinguished picture book award is only a few weeks away.  Can you feel the anticipation growing?    Perhaps I am getting a little too carried away!

This week I have another wordless picture book.  Yes, that Caldecott committee loves books with no words, but they still remain a bit akward for me.  My favorite wordless story this year was without a doubt Mr. Wuffles, but this week's book Journey is a beautiful picture book of ... well... a journey.

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Title:           Journey

Illustrator:  Aaron Becker

Target:       Preschool - Grade 2

What this book is about:
A little girl living in a monochrome world is bored.  She grabs her red crayon and draws a door, which takes her into a magically colorful world full of adventure.  Her crayon allows her to navigate through that world, drawing what she needs to move the story, and the journey, forward.

Why I love this book:
Very reminiscent of Harold and the Purple Crayon, this book takes that concept to a much more sophisticated and graphically interesting level.  In this story there are castles, aquaducts, flying contraptions and soldiers.  I do like that our heroine finds a friend in the story who can imagine with her in the "real" world.

There is a lot to talk about in this book and "find" within the illustrations that help move the story along.  Once kids have been through it once they will enjoy seeing the clues in the second and third readings.

My only critisism is that it starts with the girl being ignored by her family in favor of technology.  This seems to be the new theme in picture books.  Blackout, Doug Unplugged, Hello! Hello! and Chloe all had the same type of theme and these are just the ones I can name off the top of my head.  I would have liked to see a beginning that was a little more original.

Who this book is for:
Lovely book for kids who like finding and discovering things in the illustrations.  Also good for kids with an active imagination.

Final thoughts:
Caldecott likes wordless books, and I wouldn't be surprised to see this one garner at least an Honor Book sticker.

Purchase this book:
To purchase this book from Amazon, click on the following link: Journey  A portion of each purchase will be donated to this blog at no cost to you.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Early Readers Your Kids Won't Want to Put Down

I am taking on early reader/chapter books today.  I think this may be one of the hardest times for parents - when kids are just learning to read and want something more that a few lines per page but can't yet tackle a full on chapter book.  You don't want them to get discouraged, yet you want to challenge them to improve.  What is a parent to do?

Well don't dismay.  Try a variety of books.  Some will peak their interest and they will give them a try, some may be a little too hard at this point in time.  Put them aside and try again later.  But most of all, try and remember that reading is fun and more than anything you want your kids to think of themselves as readers.  I hope that some of these books will get them nose deep in a good story.

This week I have books about the origins and adventures of the Greek gods, the life of twin sisters and some bathroom reading - literally.  How can you pass those up?

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Title:       Toilet:How it Works

Author:   David Macaulay

Target:    Kindergarten - Grade 3

What this book is about:
This early reader book takes us behind the scenes of an appliance that we use every day, but probably take for granted.  Readers get to learn a little of the many uses for a toilet (fish burial for one), some biology on how waste is produced, the mechanisms that actually cause a toilet to flush (keep your eye on the float), and what happens to the waste as it enters the sewer system.

Why I love this book:
This book takes bathroom humor to a whole new level!  While the book imparts quite a bit of interesting information that you never knew you wanted to know, it somehow never takes itself too seriously.  It never enters into the realm of “potty humor” or maybe I should say crass humor because there is a lot of actual potty humor.  I was amazed at how much I learned about the mechanics of the toilet and how waste is handled.

The pictures do play an integral part in the story.  They are not merely to illustrate the text, but they actually help kids understand the components of the toilet and waste removal system.  They also illustrate some of the funny parts of the subject ... I mean come on ... it’s toilets!

Who this book is for:
Any kids who like to understand the way things work and who are ready for some independent reading.

Final thoughts:
The four flush salute to a book that handles a subject we all experience with humor and intelligence.

Purchase this book:
To purchase this book from Amazon, click on the following link: Toilet: How It Works (My Readers. Level 4)  A percentage of each purchase goes to support this blog at no cost to you.

Title:       Heroes in Training:Poseidon and the Sea of Fury

Authors:  Joan Holub & Suzanne Williams

Target:    Grades 1-3

Series:    Yes, this is the second book

What this book is about:
In this second book in the series, a young Zeus still has no idea he is the son of a Titan, as he travels with Hera and Poseidon to find a trident, which was predicted in the prophecy of the oracle.  As they make their way to the sea, Poseidon suddenly finds he is quite at home in the water, especially when Oceanus shows up, not wanting to give up said trident.  A battle ensues but even if they prevail, Cronus has lots of Creatures of Chaos for them to battle.

Why I love this book:
This is one early chapter book series that I really enjoy.  It is quite a good primer for Greek mythology while telling an adventurous story.  The authors also inject quite a bit of humor to keep the mood light and kids laughing.  Kids will also relate better to the stories since Zeus is their age.

Who this book is for:
Kids who have moved into chapter books should enjoy this story.  Also it is a great book for kids interested in Percy Jackson who are not quite ready for that series.

Final thoughts:
Best to read them in order.  Zeus and the Thunderbolt is the first book in the series.

Purchase this book:
To purchase this book from Amazon, click on the following link: Poseidon and the Sea of Fury (Heroes in Training)  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog at no cost to you.

Title:       The Two and Only Kelly Twins

Author:   Johanna Hurwitz

Target:    Grades 1-3

Series:     This is the first book in a planned series

What this book is about:
Second graders Arlene and Ilene are identical twins - with different birthdays.  On was born on July 17 at 11:55 pm and the other on July 18 at 12:03 am!  They dress alike and sound alike so it is very hard to tell them apart.  Each chapter is an adventure they have, from meeting triplets to getting new pets, but through the series of stories they find that while they are very lucky to have each other, sometimes it is better not to be alike in every way.  

Why I love this book:
First off the illustrations by Tuesday Mourning (love the name) are just great.  They are charming without being too cutesy.  Sprinkled throughout the narrative they definitely add to the story.  Also, she put glasses on the girls.  I know it is a little thing, but my kids wear them,  so it’s nice to see them added to characters without making a big deal out of it.

I also really enjoyed the the interaction of the sisters.  Their conversations and conflicts felt real and not contrived.  And who doesn’t enjoy reading about twins?  There is always some point during a kid's life that they wish they had a twin brother or sister.

Who this book is for:
Kids who are confident enough for a solid chapter book.  Type is large, and pictures are scattered throughout, but not on each page.

Final thoughts:
A nice addition to the early chapter book category!

Purchase this book:
To purchase this book from Amazon, click on the following link: The Two and Only Kelly Twins  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog at no cost to you.