Sunday, January 13, 2013

A Series for Kids to Enjoy

With the Cybils final round judging just around the corner, I have been reading and rereading the wonderful selections provided by the First Round Judges.  It is a great group of middle grade fiction so check these books out!  However, it has gotten me behind on my own book reading, so please be patient with me.

This week I thought I would tackle some series for middle grade readers.  Parents (and kids) love a series.  It takes a lot of stress out of selecting books when kids have a book in the offing which they know they will enjoy and will move their story forward.  While none of the series I am profiling this week are new, they are ones that are tried and true and have many books that are already out.  The drawback of the new series, which are fresh and shiny, is that they only have one or two volumes, so there is far less to draw from.

So this week get your kids into an established series and know that if they like it, they will have quite a few volumes ahead of them, so your work is done for a while.  Put your feet up, eat some bon bons, maybe actually read a book for yourself (gasp!)

Title:        Ranger’s Apprentice

Author:    John Flanagan

Target:     Grades 4-8

Series:      Yes

What this book is about:
Will is a ward of his kingdom, having been orphaned as a baby.  When he turns fifteen, he must be chosen to apprentice in a particular field or end up working the farms around the castle.  To his surprise, he is chosen by the Rangers, a group that seems to appear and disappear at will, their mission always a mystery.    But a battle is brewing across the land, with the return of a fallen enemy, and the Rangers will play a key role in this confrontation.  As Will learns the ways of the Rangers, will he be ready?

Why I love this book:
First off I have to say that my son looooooved the series, and he begged me to read this book.  Thankfully, I listened to him, because I could immediately see why he liked it so much.  This is a great story.  Will is immediately a likable character and the pace of the book is great.  The author does a wonderful job at building the suspense and excitement in many of the  more climactic sequences.

The relationship between Will and Halt, his mentor and trainer, was complicated and supportive with just enough mystery to keep you on guard.  The relationship with Will and his friends, other wards apprenticing throughout the kingdom, was also well thought out.  It is obvious these relationships will play out throughout the series and they are set up for some engaging interactions.  

Who this book is for:
Great action book.  Should appeal to most kids

Final thoughts:
As my son would say, “What took you so long to read this book?”

To purchase this book, click on the following link to connect to Amazon: The Ruins of Gorlan (Ranger's Apprentice, Book 1)  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog.

Title:        The Familiars

Author:    Adam Epstein & Andrew Jacobson

Target:     Grades 3-5

Series:      Yes

What this book is about:
This book is about magic and wizards, only it is not told from the perspective of the wizards, it is told from the perspective of their familiars (animal companions that support them.)  So welcome to the adventures of Aldwyn, the cat, Gilbert, the frog and Skylar, the blue jay!  When their loyals get kidnapped, it is up to them to save the wizards from the evil queen.  It takes them on a quest throughout the land, gathering potions, meeting with seers and running from bounty hunters.  Will they be able to save those they love the most?

Why I love this book:
Michael Buckley, an author I admire, has called this book a cross between Warriors and Harry Potter, and I think that hits the nail on the head.  The book is filled with action, but it also never takes itself too seriously, so there is plenty of comic relief with our three animal friends.  

The one real misstep in the book are the illustrations.  While I usually like great drawings dispersed throughout a book, in this case they actually detracted from the story.  They were far too juvenile.

Who this book is for:
I have targeted this book younger because the writing is probably not sophisticated enough for older kids.  This book definitely has a simplicity to the prose that does not put it in the same category as Harry Potter, but for a younger child it will do just fine.  If your kids liked Warriors, this book is probably a great next read.

Final thoughts:
While many of the ideas in this story take their inspiration from far greater novels, this book is a nice introduction for younger kids to the magical world of the fantasy genre.

To purchase this book, click on the following link to connect to Amazon: The Familiars  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog.

Title:        The Mother-Daughter Book Club

Author:    Heather Vogel Frederick

Target:     Grades 4-6

Series:      Yes

What this book is about:
Four sixth graders are coerced into a book club by their mothers.  In this club they will read Little Women.  The girls are struggling with their friendships at school and this carries over to the book club.  The story is told in the alternating voices of the four girls as the reader sees how the girls work through their differences and their own relationships with their mothers.

Why I love this book:
While the ending was never in doubt, what kept me reading was to see how these girls worked through their issues to come together.  I really enjoy books that have alternating voices, because it allows the reader to see into the head of all the characters.  I think that is especially beneficial for kids.   They get a sense of how others may view their actions and that helps as they are developing empathy. 

I also loved the references to Little Women.  While it has been years since I read the book, and you don’t need to have read it to enjoy this story, it really inspired me to want to pick it up again.    I will definitely read it with a new perspective.

Who this is for:
Girls who love to read, but it is also good for girls working through social situations at school.

Final thoughts:
A book that inspires you to read a classic, how great is that!

To purchase this book, click on the following link to connect to Amazon: The Mother-Daughter Book Club  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog.

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