Sunday, March 31, 2013

Engaging Non Fiction Books for Kids

I'm back to non fiction again.  As states begin to implement the Common Core Standards, and kids have to begin reading more non fiction, why not give them a head start?  There has been some great writing recently in this area, as authors get more innovative and find ways to make the stories even more compelling.

Kids benefit in so many ways as they develop a more complex understanding of  the history, people and events that shape our world.  The more data points they have to draw from, the more intelligent their own opinions become.  Now come on ... what could be better than that?

So serve up a great big helping of non fiction.  Your kids will thank you for it ... one day.


Author:Andreas Schroeder

Target:Grades 4-8

Series:Sort of - the author has another book Duped

What this book is about:
This book is a series of eight stories profiling some of the most famous robberies in recent times.  It shares tales of the heist of the Mona Lisa, the only successful hijacking extortionist in American history and the infamous bank robber Willie Sutton, man of a thousand faces.

Why I love this book:
This book is terrific!  Each story is beautifully laid out in sections with comic like illustrations throughout.  The stories are humorous, clever and ironic and the fact that they are true, just makes it all the more engaging.   These robberies were so well planned and thought out, it makes you feel like they are a movie come to life.

Of course, all these men’s talents are quite sophisticated, but we see that they used them in the wrong ways.  If this book shows you anything it is that crime doesn’t pay and even missing the smallest detail can get you caught!

Who this book is for:
This is a great book for reluctant readers because of the format of the stories and the clever illustrations.  However, both my boys loved this book and read it in one sitting.  They couldn’t put it down.   This is probably one of the most kid friendly pieces of non fiction.

Final thoughts:
Since these are all true stories, I would have loved to see actual photos of the real criminals, perhaps as an addendum in the back. 

To purchase this book, click on the following link to connect to Amazon: Robbers!: True Stories of the World's Most Notorious Thieves (It Actually Happened)  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog.

Title:Lincoln’s Grave Robbers

Author:Steve Sheinkin

Target:Grades 5-8

What this book is about:
This is a book of non fiction which looks at a group of men in the late 1800‘s who tried to steal Lincoln’s remains in order to get a counterfeiter out of jail.  While the whole idea sounds absurd, this is a true story, and the men almost got away with it.  The story involves Secret Service agents, undercover spies and con men all involved in an elaborate plot to rob Lincoln’s grave.

Why I love this book:
It is always fun when history is presented in an engaging and compelling way.  Sheinkin writes this book more like a story than simply a set of facts.  I had never heard of the attempt to rob Lincoln’s grave, so it was a treat to learn something new, but the story also sheds light on the presidential election of Tilden and Hayes, the role that counterfeiters played in the fiscal strength of the country and even the role of grave robbers.

Who this book is for:
I think that older children will get more out of this book.  While written in a compelling and story like manner, there are still quite a few names and dates to keep straight and it does talk about election and fiscal issue which may be lost on a younger reader.

Final thoughts:
This book provides a glimpse of an interesting time in history, right after the Civil War which I don’t think is as familiar to most people.

To purchase this book, click on the following link to connect to Amazon: Lincoln's Grave Robbers  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog.

Title:No Crystal Stair

Author:Vaunda Micheaux Nelson

Target:Grades 6 and up

Boston Globe-Horn Book Award

What this book is about:
This is a documentary novel, which means that it is a biography whose details are fiction.  This book highlights the life of Lewis Micheaux, owner of the National Memorial African Book Store in Harlem, a store whose books are devoted to black authors who write about the black experience.  It not only shares the details of Lewis’ colorful life, with time spent in prison and as a mentor to Malcolm X, but it also profiles his development into one of the foremost thinkers behind the scene of the black movement of the 1960s.

Why I love this book:
This book is told from the perspective of over 20 characters, who speak directly to the reader.  I was bought in right away and had no trouble keeping the characters straight.  Since they spoke to the reader, I think kids will be much more engaged in the book, despite a more difficult subject matter.

I found Lewis absolutely fascinating, and while I did not connect with all his messages, the idea that knowledge is power was central to his beliefs.  He had no formal education, but believed that African Americans must know their heritage, they must embrace their history and fill their minds with as much information as possible in order to become individuals who can own their ideas and beliefs. 

On a simplistic level I loved the message that reading is the key to it all.  I do think that the book may be a bit beyond most kids, but it is a fascinating look at one individuals mark on history and it is told in an innovative format that will interest readers more than a traditional biography.

Who this book is for:
Any kids learning about civil rights, who wants to know more, will find this a fascinating and engaging read.  May be a tough sell otherwise.

Final thoughts:
I was caught up in this story and felt at the end, that beyond enjoyment, I took something bigger away from this book. 

To purchase this book, click on the following link to connect to Amazon :No Crystal Stair (Coretta Scott King Author Honor Books)  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Baseball Books for Picture Book Friday

I don't know about your house, but in this home we prepare for opening day.  My boys have their fantasy baseball teams selected, our black and orange gear is washed and ready to go and all important games are DVRed!

In honor of the start of baseball season, I thought I would profile some great baseball books for Picture Book Friday.  Hope your kids enjoy them as much as mine and .... GO GIANTS!

Title:       Brothers at Bat

Author:   Audrey Vernick

Target:    Kindergarten - Grade 3

What this book is about:
First imagine having twelve brothers.  Ok, after you have wrapped your arms around that, imagine that all of them play baseball and start a semi-pro team called the Acerras (their last name)  This is the story of a family in the 1930’s who stuck together through war and injuries to pursue their passion for baseball and to support each other.

Why I love this book:
With two baseball loving boys, I always have my eyes peeled for good baseball books.  The illustrations caught my eye first.  They are very clean and retro, which drew me in right away.  Then the story!  A baseball team of brothers is just such a fun premise, and the fact that it is true, makes it all the better!

The author does a great job with this book.  The story is full of fun facts and the way the family supports each other makes it such a feel good book.  Seeing these brothers play for the love of the game is absolutely refreshing.

Who this book is for:
I had to go looking for this book in my son’s room, so I think boys who really enjoy baseball with love this book!

Final thoughts:
Maybe the next book should be a tribute to their mother (did I mention they also had four sisters!)

To purchase this book, click on the following link to connect to Amazon: Brothers at Bat: The True Story of an Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog.

Title:       B is for Baseball

Author:   Chronicle Books

Target:    Kindergarten - Grade 3

What this book is about:
This is an alphabet book with fun information about the game.  C is for Center Field for example, and helps kids understand the field of play.  K is an abbreviation for strikeout.  Some  associations are simpler like H for Helmet.

Why I love this book:
This book is visually so much fun.  There are a mix of patterns, vintage photos and drawings that will interest even the parent who isn't so much into the game, but has to read the book over and over again.  It absolutely feels like all american fun.

Who this book is for:
This is not a great book for toddlers as some of the baseball terminology is a little more complex.  But kids who are enjoying the game will eat this one up.

Final thoughts:
Fun quiz at the end to see if you were paying attention.  I rocked it!

To purchase this book, click on the following link to connect to Amazon: B Is for Baseball: Running the Bases from A to Z  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog.

Title:       ABCs of Baseball

Author:   Peter Golenbock

Target:    Grades 1-4

What this book is about:
This is billed as an alphabet book, but really it is a picture book dictionary of baseball definitions.  This book is a step up from Bis for Baseball, and includes definitions such as ERA, Fielder's Choice and Triple Crown.  In the back it also has a section of fun facts.  These include team trivia, baseball awards and the different leagues and the teams that play in them.

Why I love this book:
While the pictures are not as fun as in B is for Baseball, it does provide simple definitions for all the terms that are used in the game.  The illustrations mean that the book never feels overwhelming.  This book is perfect for little leaguers who want to learn more about the "real" game!

Who this book is for:
Because it is an illustrated book of definitions, an older child will enjoy this book.

Final thoughts:
I think that adults will have a fun time going through this book with their kids and helping them understand some of the lingo in the game.

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

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Easter Book Baskets

It's that time of year again ... my annual Easter Book Basket post.  In this house, books take front and center at Easter.  We have made it an annual tradition that the Easter Bunny brings book baskets Easter morning.  The kids always look forward to the new titles and it takes the emphasis off toys and candy.

However, I am not grinch.  An Easter basket without a chocolate bunny would be cruel and unusual punishment!  As always I am sharing the baskets I have put together for my family.  I hope they give you inspiration for an "eggcellent" Easter!  To see my baskets from last year, click here.

Basket for my fourteen year old son (who is too old but doesn't want to miss out on the books and chocolate bunny!)

1. Poseidon: Earth Shaker by George O'Connor.  This is the fifth installment in the Olympians series of graphic novels and my son has devoured the other four.  To purchase, click here: Poseidon: Earth Shaker (Olympians)

2.  Transformers: Robots in Disguise by John Barber.  My son is a big fan of these graphic novels.  The Transformer books have become quite sophisticated and the plots have developed into political thrillers.  To purchase, click here: Transformers: Robots in Disguise Volume 1 (Transformers (Idw))

3.  Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Mardsen.  This series recently popped up on my radar.  Friends go camping and when they return they find their country has been invaded and their entire town captured.  I am hoping it is a hit with him!  To purchase, click here: Tomorrow, When the War Began (The Tomorrow Series #1)

Basket for my eleven year old son

1.  Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made by Stephan Pastis.  I have heard great things about this book, mostly in the vein of laugh out loud funny.  That is just up my son's alley.  To purchase, click here: Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made

2. The Brick Bible: The New Testament by Brendan Powell Smith.  Who can resist the story of the New Testament told entirely with Lego minifigures.  It seemed fitting for Easter.  To purchase, click here: The Brick Bible: The New Testament: A New Spin on the Story of Jesus

3. I Funny: A Middle School Story by James Patterson.  My son has enjoyed all of Patterson's Middle School books so how could I resist getting him the new one which declares it's hilarity in the title.  To purchase, click here: I Funny: A Middle School Story

Basket for my nine year old daughter

1. Prince Puggly of Spud and the Kingdom of Spiff by Robert Paul Weston.  By the author of one her favorite novels, Zorgamazoo, this story is also told entirely in rhyme.  I can't wait for us to read it together.  To purchase, click here: Prince Puggly of Spud and the Kingdom of Spiff.

2.  The Choclolate Touch by Patrick Skens Catling.  This book is the Midas touch for chocolate lovers. Can you ever get too much of a good thing?  To purchase, click here: The Chocolate Touch.

3.  Archie: The Married Life by Michael Uslan.  Ok, I am now sharing my daughters and my most embarrassing addiction, Archie comics.  My mother forbid them when I was growing up, which probably explains why my daughter and I read them voraciously now.  Try not to judge us.  To purchase click here: Archie: The Married Life Book 1.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Easter Books for Kids

With Easter on the horizon, it is time to share some of our families favorite Easter books.  Every year we bring out the seasonal book basket and fill it with Easter fare.  I always have a fondness for the classics.

Home for a Bunny and The Golden Egg Book, both by Margaret Wise Brown are two of my favorites.  I remember them from when I was a kid and their oversized dimensions make them feel special when they come out.  What could be better than a supersized book?  And in true Golden Book fashion they are dated and charming.

The Truth About Easter Rabbits is one I love because it takes the most charming illustrations from old picture books and compiles them into the definitive collection about the Easter Rabbit.  Did you know the rabbits maintain parallel lives to ours, yet they are invisible until Easter when they make their presence known?  Bet you didn't!  Well this endearing book will fill you in.

However, the book I am profiling today, which is the most popular one by far with my children is by Dav Pilkey.  This is about as far from a traditional Easter book as you will get, but I guarantee your kids will make you read it over and over and over again!

Title:       The Dumb Bunnies’ Easter

Author:   Dav Pilkey

Target:    Kindergarten - Grade 2

Series:     Yes

What this book is about:
The dumb bunnies really can’t get anything right.  They celebrate Easter on December 24th, they carve the turkey in the shape of a pumpkin and they spray paint fried eggs.  Really what is not to love.  

Why I love this book:
Kids just love the absurdaty of this story.  Every time our dumb bunnies get something wrong, my kids would laugh and point out their mistakes, and there is so much silliness to find. 

Who this book if for:
This book is only for kids who enjoy the ridiculous!

Final thoughts:
How can a picture book by the author of Captain Underpants be anything but a funny, wild ride?

To purchase this book, click on the following link to connect to Amazon: The Dumb Bunnies' Easter

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Favorite New Kid's Series

How about a fun series to get things started this week?  There are few series that have been on my radar recently.  Two are great new beginnings to some fun narratives, and one is the second installment in a series I have enjoyed from the start.  In fact, I have to admit that I may enjoy this second offering even more than the first!  So start your child's week off with a good book.  The first book I am profiling, Jinx, is probably one of my favorite new series of the year, so happy reading.

Title:       Jinx

Author:   Sage Blackwood

Target:    Grades 4-7

Series:     This is the first book in a planned series

What this book is about:
Jinx lives in the Urwald, a forest filled with magic, trolls, werewolves, witches and wizards.  When he is abandoned by his family, he is taken in by a wizard.  But Jinx is never sure if the wizard’s intentions are kind or rooted in evil.  As Jinx grows and realizes his own magic and power he must leave what he has always known to find out the truth.

Why I love this book:
Oh, this was a great story!  I hadn’t been reading anything really note worthy and when this book fell across my path I got all excited again.  There is magic, danger, friendship, and curses.  Who is a young boy to trust?

With twists and turns in the story, an absolutely endearing main character, great friend sidekicks and villains whose motives are always in question - this book is a wonderful ride!

Who this book is for:
Great for kids who like an adventure and a little humor.  Kids who like Harry Potter or Fablehaven will absolutely devour this book.

Final thoughts:
Without a doubt one of my favorite new series.  I will be anxiously watching and waiting for the next book!

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

Title:       The Quick Fix

Author:   Jack D. Ferraiolo

Target:    Grades 5-8

Series:     Yes

What this book is about:
The book is a sequel to Ferraiolo’s first book, The Big Splash.  We are taken back to Franklin Middle School, otherwise known as “The Frank.”  Matt, our resident detective and good guy is still dealing with Vinny Biggs, who runs the dirty dealings at the school: access to hall passes, test answers, and contraband sweets.  When Matt takes the case of a lovely blond cheerleader who is concerned when her boyfriend asks her to hold a piece of wood - no question asked, Matt may have bitten off more than he can chew. 

Why I love this book:
Ferraiolo has done it again.  His books embody the feel of the old time detective with swagger and a heart of gold who helps the dame in trouble, but of course our detective is in for more than he bargained for.  Ferraiolo manages to accomplish this mood while keeping the subject matter fresh and current.  A great combination.  

I actually enjoyed the sequel more than  the original book, because the original story had some moments when kids were actually being quite unkind to each other, and it made me feel uncomfortable.  However, rest assured, the message in these books is always positive - looking out for the underdog and doing the right thing is always the best course of action.

Who this book is for:
While you don’t have to read the first book, it does help because many of the original characters resurface in The Quick Fix, and you will enjoy the story more if you understand their history in the narrative.  This book is an engaging mystery, fast paced and has a lot of humor.

Final thoughts:
The dialogue is sharp and funny, with all the clever retorts I wish I could think of spur of the moment.

To purchase this book, click on the following link to connect to Amazon: The Quick Fix (Big Splash)  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog.

Title:       The Cloak Society

Author:    Jeramey Kraatz

Target:     Grades 4-6

Series:      This is the first book in a planned series

What this book is about:
Alex is born into the Cloak Society, a group of villains who each posses unique superpowers.  Alex can move things with his mind.  He has been brought up believing that the Rangers of Justice, the protectors of Sterling City, killed his grandfather in their attempt for ultimate power.  In fact, the mission of the Cloak Society is not villainy at all, but revenge for the way society has treated them.   But Alex does the unimaginable and not only saves the life of a Ranger, but befriends her.  Will this friendship change the way he sees his world?

Why I love this book:
This book is almost like a younger version of the H.I.V.E., which is a series I love!  I think this book is a nice start to the series, with some tongue and cheek humor, great back stories that are intertwined well into the story and a good amount of action.  

It took a few chapters for me to get into this book, but once I was invested, I was hooked.  The most unfortunate thing about this book is the cover.  There is nothing like a young boy with a blue orb to turn a reader off.  I had to almost beg my son to read the book because he was so unimpressed with the cover art and thought the book would be too juvenile.  

Who this book is for:
Lots of action, so this is a good book for the Alex Rider crowd. 

Final thoughts:
A nice start to a new series - just please change the cover!

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

Friday, March 15, 2013

Miss LIna's Ballerinas for Picture Book Friday

It's all ballet for Picture Book Friday!  While my daughter gave up dance class for soccer and ballet shoes for cleats long ago, I can't help feeling whimsical for the days she would dress up in a tutu and perform for us.

However, she still enjoys these books so I get my fix reading to her.  The book I am highlighting this week provides so much more than just pretty in pink!  It begins ushering in early math concepts as well as introducing kids to some more advanced vocabulary.  Who doesn't love a book that uses the words, "abashed, baffled, befuddled, flummoxed and flustered." A wealth of great lessons in a delightful book offering.

Title:       Miss Lina’s Ballerinas

Author:   Grace Maccarone

Target:    Preschool - Grade 2

Series:     Yes

What this book is about:
In the lovely town of Messina, eight ballerinas study dance with Miss Lena.  They work in perfect harmony until one day a new ballerina, Regina, joins the group.  With nine dancers, every thing is thrown off and chaos ensues.  Can they find harmony once again?

Why I love this book:
Oh, there are so many reasons to love this story.  The rhyme and cadence of this book make it a lovely read aloud.  It flows off the tongue.  The illustrations are pink, without feeling like you arrived in the land of bubble gum, and the drawings are charming without being over the top.  

I just love that Maccarone has included some early math skills in the book as the girls divide themselves into new rows, based on their new member.  There is also a nice message of finding solutions to problems through inclusion.

Who this book is for:
This is a girly book, and girls who love ballet and pink will find this story charming.  Parents will enjoy that there are bigger messages and that it has a beautiful parisian appeal to it.

Final thoughts:
A delight of story!

To purchase this book, click on the following link to connect to Amazon: Miss Lina's Ballerinas  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog.

I have also included the video for this book, which I found quite lovely!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Historical Fiction for Kids

I feel like when I bring up historical fiction for kids, a general yawn circulates around the room.  Shame on you ... well perhaps not you specifically, but you yawners know who you are!  No longer is historical fiction for kids a dry story with dates and places.  These stories are exciting, filled with intrigue, spies, battles and seemingly insurmountable challenges.

Historical fiction can open a window for kids to the past, and these stories will not only help them understand the challenges of the times but also bring to life people who faced these hardships.  Knowing that the events that surrounded these stories are true makes them all the more exhilarating and compelling.

I am going to take a moment to make a small plea to my readers.  If you are enjoying this blog, please "like" it on Facebook or Twitter.  The links are on the bar to the right.  If you have already, many thanks.  Also, if you are planning to buy any of the books I have recommended, please consider clicking through to Amazon on my link.  I receive a small percentage (at no cost to you) of the purchase.  While producing this blog is certainly a labour of love, there are costs that need to be offset, and it's continuation is dependent on it being self sustaining.

Thanks also for all the encouragement and kind words.  They really mean quite a bit more than you know!

Title:       Shadow on the Mountain

Author:   Margi Preus

Target:    Grades 4-8

Series:     No

What this book is about:
Norway has been invaded by the Nazis.  Fourteen year old Espen and some of his friends become involved with the Resistance movement.  This is the story of how Espen was able to help the Norwegian resisters, interact with friends who join the Nazi party and eventually flee to Sweden.

Why I love this book:
Being Norwegian I was immediately sucked into this story, but you don’t have to be of Nordic descent to appreciate this exciting narrative.  This book will have kids on the edge of their seats as Espen tries to outwit the Gestapo, deliver coded messages and manage the snowy terrain.  My son and I each read this story in one day, we just couldn’t put it down.

While this book is fiction, it is based on actual events that occurred and loosely follows the life of a real Norwegian spy in the Resistance.  What amazed me was how the Nazi occupation drastically effected the lives of the Norwegians, and these stories of courage are so inspiring.  At the back of the book Preus has included photos of the actual individuals and places, making the events feel more real and the story feel more amazing.

Who this book is for:
Despite being historical fiction, the story is written in such a way that it is a spy thriller and so many kids should be drawn to the excitement of this narrative.

Final thoughts:
Fun bonus material in the back teaches kids how to break codes and make invisible ink.

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

Title:       Hattie Ever After

Author:   kirby larson

Target:    Grades 4-8

Series:    This is a sequel to Hattie Big Sky

What this book is about:
We are reunited with an eighteen year old Hattie Brooks after she has given up her land claim in Montana and after WWI has ended.  She is now free to pursue a new dream, with the new sense of confidence she has learned from her life as a homesteader.  The writing she had done for a local paper, spurs her on to San Francisco and to try her hand at writing for a real newspaper.  However, reporter jobs are hard to come by, for even the most ambitious, and especially if you are a woman.  Starting out as a cleaning woman in the building is a small foot in the door, but is it one that will help her realize her dream?

Why I love this book:
Larson has done it again.  Hattie is strong and perseverant, while still being a kind and caring young woman.  This is a book I would have adored when I was young, well lets be honest, I am still quite a fan.  While the story takes a different bent from the fields and and physical labour required of a homesteader, Hattie’s can do attitude and resilience is ever present.

While I don’t think this sequel will win a Newbery Honor, as its predecessor did, it is a really engaging read.  The historical details are so much fun.  I must admit that even though I grew up without cell phones and computers, I had really forgotten how much work it took to get a story out without those things we take for granted.  

Who this book is for:
Great book for girls because of Hattie’s strength of character.  Fun way to learn about life in the early 1900’s.  While reading the first book is not a prerequisite, readers will miss some of the subtler connections if they don’t start with Hattie Big Sky.

Final thoughts:
These are books I am anxious to share with my daughter when she is ready.

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

Title:       Iron Thunder

Author:   Avi

Target:    Grades 4-6

Series:     No

What this book is about:
This book follows a young boy of twelve, Tom Carroll as he takes a job at the ironworks during the Civil War, only to find himself working on one of the first ships made of iron for the Union, The Monitor.  Tom is amazed and afraid the ship won’t float, but after a series of run ins with Confederate spies, he decides to enlist and go out with the boat on it’s first battle against the only other ironclad, The Merrimac.  This is a pivotal battle to save the Union!  Will the boat sink and the hopes of the war along with it?

Why I love this book:
The pace of this story moves well, and there is plenty of action.  Top that off with some very engaging historical details, and folks, we have a winner.  Avi has interspersed quite a lot of original artwork and photos of items from 1862 which brings the story to life, and while the story is fiction the basic premise is quite true.

I found it fascinating to learn about the great battle of the ironclads and this book really will bring history to life for kids (I know, it sounds cliche!)  With spies, intrigue, uncertainty and battles, what kid can resist?

Who this book is for:
Children who like history and action!

Final thoughts:
My oldest son read this a few years back and told me I had to read it.  I just finished my second reading a few days ago, and it still holds up as great historical fare.

To purchase this book, click on the following link to connect to Amazon: Iron Thunder (I Witness)  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Don't Squish the Sasquatch!

I know what you're thinking .... Sasquatch!  Ok, I'm no mind reader, but I can predict that you and your child will be loving this picture book. This one will pop off the shelf so enjoy the lively selection for Picture Book Friday!

Title:       Don’t Squish the Sasquatch!

Authors: Kent Redeker + Bob Staake

Target:    Preschool - Grade 2

What this book is about:
Senor Sasquatch is waiting for the bus.  When it comes, he gets on, hoping it won’t get too crowded, because it is never good when a sasquatch gets squished.  As a bevy of interesting animals board the bus, Mr. Octo-Rhino and Miss Loch-Ness-Monster-Space Alien, to name a few, our Senor Sasquatch gets very squished, which leads to a big Ka-Blooey!!  The best part is what the animals have to do to fix Senior Sasquatch as they attempt to restore order.

Why I love this book:
First off, the illustrations are so colorful and full of action that they help make this story wonderful.  Kids will love the bevy of unusual animals and the array of funny, fishy, intergalactic kisses needed to revive our sasquatch (see I gave some of the ending bad)  Nice repeating phrases will have kids chanting along.

Who this book is for:
Most kids will really enjoy this book.

Final thoughts:
A graphic delight!

To purchase this book click on the following link to connect to Amazon: Don't Squish the Sasquatch!  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Early Chapter Books for Kids

I always find early chapter books a challenge.  I don't want to scare kids off by presenting a book that seems too overwhelming .... yet I want kids to feel they have moved on to bigger things and not dissapoint them with a book that seems to juvenile.  A tough balancing act!

This week I have several selections that I hope will give them confidence in reading, but still challenge them enough to see a real improvement.  Whatever you do, don't give up at this stage.  Try lots of books.  Some will stick, some won't, but give kids enough variety that they find something that ignites their enthusiasm and passion in reading.

I have tried to give you quite a selection: greek gods, animal loving students, girly girls, and fun folktales.  Here's hoping to at least one or two being a hit in your house!

Title:       Heroes in Training: Zeus and the Thunderbolt of Doom

Authors:  Joan Holub & Suzanne Williams

Target:     Grades 1-3

Series:     Yes

What this book is about:
Just how did Zeus become the King of the Olympians?  Well look no further, because this book is a basic and very funny primer to Greek mythology.  We follow a young Zeus as he confronts the Oracle of Delphi, whose fogged up glasses do not make the future very clear.  She, however, sets him on his path to get his brothers and sisters out of Cronus’ belly.  Now if only he could figure out what to do with that pesky lightning bolt!

Why I love this book:
While true to the original stories, this version is quite humorous and engaging.  Presenting Zeus as a young boy, trying to figure out his part in the narrative, is quite relatable to kids.  The funny quips and confused oracle will keep kids laughing, but the story itself will give them the basics of the Greek mythology.

Who this book is for:
This book is for kids just starting chapter books.  Bigger type and one full page picture per chapter make this book not too overwhelming, but kids must be ready for several pages in a row of text.  Great for kids who may be interested in Percy Jackson, but are too young for the books.

Final thoughts:
The start of a really fun series.

To purchase this book, click on the following link to connect to Amazon: Zeus and the Thunderbolt of Doom (Heroes in Training)  A portion of each purchase goes back to support this blog.

Title:       Lulu and the Duck in the Park

Author:   Hilary McKay

Target:    Grades 1-3

Series:     Yes

What this book is about:
Lulu is wild about animals.  She is so crazy about them that she even brings her dog to school, which doesn’t go over so well with her teacher.  No animals are allowed in class!  However, after the class sees dogs running wild through a park and upsetting the nests of the ducks that live there, no one realizes when Lulu saves one of the eggs.  After spending the day hiding the egg under her sweater, Lulu finds it actually hatches.  Will Lulu break the no animals in class rule?

Why I love this book:
This book was charming and well written, which is always a treat for an early chapter book.  The teacher was actually quite funny, in a realistic way, and her occasional exasperation felt very real.  Kids will certainly appreciate the humor of it.  I liked that Lulu was drawn as African American, and that nothing in the actual story hinted at her race, which I hope opens kid’s imaginations to what characters can look like.

Who this book is for:
Kids starting to move to chapter books will like this story.  There are not illustrations on every page but they are liberally scattered throughout the book.  The cover is pink which may turn off some boys, but the actually story is not girly and both boys and girls can enjoy it.

Final thoughts:
The story was sweet, but not in a predictable sugary way, which is appealing to me.

To purchase this book, click on the following link to connect to Amazon: Lulu and the Duck in the Park (Book 1)  A portion of each purchase goes back to supper this blog.

Title:       Kylie Jean: Drama Queen

Author:   Marci Peschke

Target:    Grades 1-2

Series:     Yes

What this book is about:
Kylie Jean is just starting second grade.  When her teacher tells the class they will be putting on the play Alice in Wonderland, Kylie can’t wait to try out for the part of the Queen.  However, the new girl in their class, who hasn’t been very nice to Kylie, gets the part and Kylie must decide how she will handle the news.

Why I love this book:
First let me say I hated the beginning of the book and almost didn’t read it.  The idea that Kylie aspires to be a beauty queen, didn’t play very well for me.  It felt so cliche and limiting for a second grade girl.  However, the book itself shows Kylie working hard for what she wants and choosing to behave in ways that make her a pretty person on the inside, and I loved those messages.  Once the story gets going I think it has some great messages for girls, but the beginning was a real turn off as an adult.

Who this book is for:
This is a book for a girl who likes pink and pretty.  The illustrations are adorable and are done in black and pink ink, with lots of hearts thrown in!

Final thoughts:
Pretty is as pretty does!

To purchase this book, click on the following link to connect to Amazon: Drama Queen (Kylie Jean)  A portion of each purchase goes back to support this blog.

Title:       The Feathered Ogre/The Mother of Monsters

Author:    Fran Parnell

Target:     K-Grade 2

Series:      Yes

What these stories are about:
Both these books tell stories from folklore, the Ogre from Italy and the Mother of Monsters from South Africa.  The rest of the series profiles monster stories from other countries.  The stories are told in an easy to read format with charming illustrations which are not in the least bit scary!  In our first story the king will give half his kingdom to anyone who brings back a feather from the Ogre to cure his illness.  In our second story, the princess Ntombi is afraid of nothing, and wants adventures, not marriage.

Why I love these books:
Books like these are why I love this blog.  It is so much fun to find a hidden gem among early reader books and I wonder why they haven’t been discovered before!  I’m not usually a folklore person, they can get a little preachy and highbrow for me, but these stories are retold in the most delightful and fun way to engage the reader throughout!

Who this book is for:
Kids wanting to start chapter books.  The text is not overwhelming and the graphics are fun and plentiful.

Final thoughts:
Culture + folklore = fun, not usually an equation I find to be true but in the case of this series, a winner!

To purchase this book, click on the following link to connect to Amazon: The Feathered Ogre: A Story from Italy (Monster Stories)  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog.