Sunday, June 30, 2013

Books For Animal Loving Kids

Lions and tigers and hamsters, oh my!  This week all my books have a main character from the animal kingdom.

And here is the rub, animals books just aren't my thing.  There I said it.  I generally find that if the main character is a cat, a dog or even the dreaded hamster/mouse it takes a lot to get me to pick up the book.  Now there are some exceptions.  The Tale of Desperaux had me hooked from the first page, Charlotte's Web - well, need I say more and The One and Only Ivan, last years Newbery winner, was definitely charming.  But generally speaking, I am just not an animal person.

Now, here is the problem.  While I may not warm to the animal books, I have many kids who absolutely love a good feline in charge, a dog running the show or a mouse exherting his independance.  So I delve into this genre from time to time so that I have great recommendations for these kids.  The best part is that I always find something that surprises me and makes me think that maybe I could become an animal person, just maybe ....

Title:       The World According to Humphrey

Author:   Betty Birney

Target:    Grades 2-4, although it can be a read aloud for K-1

Series:     Yes

What this book is about:
Humphrey the hamster is the newest classroom addition to Room 26, and he makes a significant impact on the students in a quiet, but still squeaky way!  By watching, he learns that the students problems are not how they first appear.  He is able to get one family to turn off the TV and start interacting with each other and he manages to get the shyest girl in the class to speak up.  Each child  with whom he interacts learns a valuable lesson and their lives are changed for the better.

Why I love this book:
Well it certainly isn’t because the main character is a hamster!  When Betty Birney was scheduled to come to our school to speak I was not jumping up and down enthusiastically to get familiar with her hamster series.   All I can say is thank goodness she came to visit, or I wouldn’t have taken a chance on this delightful book.  

Humphrey is decidedly fun and not cutesy, which kept me thoroughly engaged in the story.  One of my favorite parts is when Humphrey tries to remember the names of the kids in the class and call them “Stop Giggling Gail” or “Raise your Hand Harry” because that’s what he hears the teacher say to them all day long.  A clever twist.

Who this book is for:
Great next level chapter book for kids moving past the early chapter book series.  The series also makes a nice read aloud for the younger grades.  These books are a good bet for most kids.

Final thoughts:
Humphrey does have some extremely witty commentaries, and his guide to the care and feeding of humans at the end is dead on!

To purchase this book, click on the following link to connect to Amazon: The World According to Humphrey  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog, at no cost to you.

Title:       The Cheshire Cheese Cat, A Dickens of a Tale

Authors:  Carmen Agra Deedy & Randall Wright

Target:    Grade 4-8

Series:     No

What this book is about:
Skilley, our main character and a street cat has a secret - he would rather eat cheese than mice.  When he finds a home at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese tavern as the mouse catcher, he immediately makes a deal with Pip, a very literate and educated mouse, to pretend to catch the mice in exchange for their access to the good stuff (cheese!)  An unlikely friendship develops and when a mouse eating cat gets brought into the tavern, and a royal raven is trapped in the attic, things start to get interesting!

Why I love this book:
Ok, I read the first chapter and put the book down thinking I was not interested.  It takes a lot to get me to read an animal book and this just wasn’t going to be the one.  However, when it got selected as a contender for a competition called Battle of the Books, with a group of novels I loved, I decided to give it a second chance.  Well the second time around I couldn’t put it down.  It is so well written and the story just sucked me in.  The vocabulary will be challenging for your kids, and the authors even include a glossary in the back, which I must admit I used a few times!

It is not often that I pull quotes out of books, but in this book I wrote down two which I read to my children (also something I never do!)  “It is not enough to say you are sorry.  You must utterly own the terrible thing you have done.  You must cast no blame on the one you’ve injured.   Rather, accept every molecule of the responsibility, even if reason and self-preservation scream against it.  Then and only then, will the words ‘I am sorry’ have meaning.” and “Cowards choose victims, not equals.”  Great stuff not only for kids but also wise words for the grown-ups.

Who this book is for:
This book is actually an homage to Dickens’ tales.  There are so many sly references that to be frank, kids probably will not get them nor was I literate enough to get them all, but you don’t need to to enjoy this book.  It is a bit of an intellectual book, so it’s probably not best for a reluctant reader.  However it is filled with action and suspense so you don’t need to have cerebral child for them to really enjoy the story.

Final thoughts:
”He was the best of toms.  He was the worst of toms.”

To purchase this book, click on the following link to connect to Amazon: The Cheshire Cheese Cat: A Dickens of a Tale  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog, at no cost to you.

Title:       The Cats of Tanglewood Forest

Author:   Charles De Lint

Target:    Grades 4-6

Series:     No

What this book is about:
Lillian spends her days doing chores and traipsing through the forest to look for fairies.  She lives with her Aunt on a remote farm and thinks she just might believe in magic.  While running through the woods, she gets bitten by a snake and the fast moving venom is about to kill her.  The wild cats use magical forces to turn her into a kitten so she won’t die, but this leaves her in a bit of a predicament.  She is not quite a girl and not quite a cat and must figure out a way to make things right.

Why I love this book:
First off, the illustration liberally used throughout the book make it quite striking.  Charles Vess has a distinct style, and while the pictures were not always charming, they are extremely impactful to the story and create a visually appealing read.  The illustrations definitely add to this story.

I thought the story itself was charming.  I liked the messages of being kind to others simply because it is the right thing to do.  I also thought the variety of characters were well done.  My favorite was the fox, but I also enjoyed Mother Possum and the Bear People.  De Lint has created a magical world that is not cutesy but thoughtful and interesting.

Who this book is for:
I think kids who like The Warriors series might enjoy this book.  However, the quality of the writing is much better here.  This is not necessarily a fast moving story, so kids who need a lot of action, might not warm to this book.

Final thoughts:
A lovely look at magic and folklore.  I was surprised how it sucked me in.

To purchase this book, click on the following link to connect to Amazon: The Cats of Tanglewood Forest  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog, at no cost to you.

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