Friday, May 30, 2014

Ava and Pip Is a Lovely Read for Kids

Today I have a lovely read that completely resonated with my fifth grade self.  How did the author know what I was thinking back then?  Uncanny!

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Title:        Ava and Pip

Author:   Carol Weston

Target:    Grades 4-6

Series:     No

What this book is about: 
Ava is outgoing with lots of friends.  Her older sister Pip is so shy she eats alone every day at school.  Ava worries about Pip, and when Pip’s birthday party is ruined when one of the popular girls (Bea) plans a party on the same day, Ava vents by writing a story about the Queen Bee who has stolen her sister’s friends.  The story is submitted to a local contest, and when it wins an honorable mention, it is published for the community.  The only problem is that the actual Queen Bee is really a nice person, who didn’t intend Pip any harm.  How can Ava make everything right again?

Why I love this story: 
Ava is just wonderfully written.  She feels just what every fifth grader feels about her parent’s not paying enough attention to her and wanting to do the right thing for everyone.  Part of my love for this book stems from the fact that I could see myself in Ava so clearly at that age.  

Between jealousy of her sister, to overcoming an embarrassing situation, this book felt realistic and will show girls that they can get through both.  It also reminds kids in this information age, that what they write down doesn’t just go away, so they have to be careful with the words they choose.

I really enjoyed the word play included in the book, especially the palindromes.  So many books try to teach literary concepts and then add a story around them.  This book has a solid story and then adds concepts that fit beautifully into the narrative.  

Who this book is for: 
The book is in a diary format, so kids will not feel overwhelmed by this story.  Good for reluctant readers as a result.

This book is also wonderful for girls who want to be writers, girls who occasionally have trouble with their sisters, and girls who aim to please (or basically just a younger versions of me!)

Final thoughts: 
YAY!  WOW!  DON’T NOD run to go out and get this book.  Some palindrome humor.  I tried!

To purchase this book:
Click on the following link to connect to Amazon: Ava and Pip  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog at no cost to you.  Thank you for your support.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Mad Potter is Madly Entertaining

I have to admit that I am partial to books that teach kids to appreciate art in its many forms.  The Mad Potter is wonderful way to introduce kids to pottery ... no really.

I know what you're thinking.  There is no way my child is going to read a book about clay pots!  But how about a book about an eccentric man with a handlebar mustache that he wraps around his ears.  How about a book where the pots don't look quite like anything you have seen before.  I promise you that this book will intrigue them at a minimum and educate them without their knowing.

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Title:       The Mad Potter: George E. Ohr Eccentric Genius

Author:  Jan Greenberg & Sandra Jordan

Target:   Grades 2-6

Series:    No

What this book is about: 
George Ohr was eccentric, arrogant and brazen.  He was a potter who crafted pots whose artistic merits were not recognized at the time, but who still became a Biloxi tourist attraction for his flamboyant style.  Both he and his pots were “out there.”  George sported a ridiculously long handlebar mustache which he wrapped around his ears.  His pots were free form expressions, and no two are alike.  While he wasn’t considered an artist by others at the time, despite his self professed talent, years after his death his pots become hot commodities.  Single vases now fetch upwards of one hundred and thirty-three thousand dollars.  

Why I love this book: 
The photos in this book are marvelous.  I showed it to several girls in my daughter’s class and they were absolutely intrigued by both the crazy shapes of the pots and the outlandish appearance of George himself.  A wonderful way to introduce children to “artistic personality” and the creative process.

I also very much enjoyed the page on how to look at a pot in the back of the book.  It is a wonderful primer for kids on how to approach looking at works of art.

This book makes nonfiction fun, and is a wonderful way to get kids excited about books that feature real events and people.

Who this book is for: 
I think if a parent reads this book with a child, most kids will absolutely get caught up in the life and work of George Ohr.  I would encourage it as a read aloud or read together.

Final thoughts:
You will appreciate this one as much as your kids.

To purchase this book:
Click on the following link to connect to Amazon: The Mad Potter: George E. Ohr, Eccentric Genius  A portion of each purchase will go back to support this blog at no cost to you.  Thank you for your support. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Benji Franklin Kid Zillionaire Is Priceless

I have been tackling more books in the early chapter book category.  I have been looking for those selections for kids who have moved on to chapter books, but who aren't quite ready for the heavier middle grade fare.  These are the second through fourth graders whose reading is proficient but they don't have the stamina for the longer or more mature novels.

My daughter is just getting out of this phase, and I struggled.  I wanted to keep her up on chapter books so she felt like a confident reader and got good practice.  I also knew she wanted to feel as though she had moved on from the easier first chapter books that were too simple in vocabulary and too straightforward in plot structure.  There is good stuff out there.  I am on the hunt for the best.

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Title:       Benji Franklin: Kid Zillionaire

Author:  Raymond Bean

Target:   Grades 2-4

Series:   Yes

What this book is about: 
Benji is a genius.  In his tech class he is required to invent an app, and Benji decides to create the Excuse Yourself app.  It helps kids find an excuse for any problem, gives them the odds of the excuse working, issues advice for using that excuse and tracks the number of times a kid has used it.  It is an instant hit and before Benji knows it he has made millions.  However, he doesn’t have much time to enjoy his new found wealth as he is brought in by an important industrialist to solve the problem of escaped dinosaurs and asteroids which are headed straight on a collision course for earth.  So is the life of a boy genius.

Why I love this book:
My favorite part of this book is the app development.  It is fun to see what Benji comes up with!  The rest of the book is quite a stretch from realism, but it does empower kids to realize that their ideas can have value.  

At first I was a little disappointed that the book took such an unrealistic turn,  I think there were more real world issues that Benji could have tackled.  But the book is based in fun and far out thinking and kids will enjoy the crazy scenarios and humor.

Who this book is for: 
Pages are not long, type is big and pictures are scattered throughout the chapters.  This book is good for kids who are tackling longer chapter books but who aren’t quite ready for heavier middle grade novels.  

Final thoughts:  
I need to get my kids working! 

To purchase this book:
Click on the following link to connect to Amazon: Benji Franklin: Kid Zillionaire  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog at no cost to you.  Thank you for your support.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

To Miss Lawless Would Be Criminal

I like the idea of schools where unconventional things happen.  I think these stories always gave me hope, as a kid, that there was more out there than my day to day experiences.  It was also easier to imagine something in a setting that at least had some resemblance to my own!

In the book I am profiling today, kids go to school to learn to be master criminals, of the elite variety.  Now come on ... how cool is that?

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Title:       Lawless

Author:   Jeffrey Salane

Target:    Grades 5-7

Series:     This is the first book in a planned series

What this book is about: 
M Freeman has always been destined to go the Lawless School.  The only problem is that no one told her it is a school for up and coming criminals.  While she thought her father was an art restorer, it turns out he was a master thief of fine art work.  However, her unconventional home schooling has made her the perfect candidate and she excels at Art History (stolen masterpieces), PE (escaping on the run) and Language Arts (lies and alibis). But, who can you trust in a school full of criminals?  When a heist goes wrong she isn’t quite sure who to turn to!

Why I love this book: 
Ok, this is just fun stuff.  The book is well written and just hooks you in from the first chapter.  Who doesn’t love a school full of criminals with twists and turns at every corner?  Most kids will feel the classes at the Lawless School are a vast improvement over what they are currently taking.  

I also love that the main character is a girl and that it isn’t relevant in the least to the enjoyment of the story.  Boys will enjoy this book as much as girls which is a nice turn with a female lead.  

Who this book is for: 
Most kids will sink their teeth into this one.  It is a younger version of the HIVE series and Heist Society, so if those appealed to your kids, than this one will be a hit.

Final thoughts: 
Perhaps the lawless life for me? I am a fan.

To purchase this book:
Click on the following link to connect to Amazon: Lawless: Book 1  A portion of each book will support this blog at no cost to you.  Thank you for your support.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Vordak Is a Funny Illustrated Novel

It has been a while since I reviewed a Vordak book, and to be frank they are as snarky and just plain entertaining as ever.  No one can resist Vordak's snide charm which will provide some laugh out loud moments for your child.  So what are you waiting for?  Don't you want to know about Vordak's sinister exploits to rule the world?

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Title:       Vordak the Incomprehensible: Time Travel Trouble

Author:   Scott Seegert

Target:    Grades 3-6

Series:     Yes

What this book is about: 
Vordak is a snarky, smart aleck villain who lacks the skill and the smarts to outwit his arch nemesis Commander Virtue.  However, he doesn’t see it that way!  As he insults the reader, who apparently cannot see and appreciate his villainous ways, he works to try and capture Commander Virtue - for the 39th time (all other attempts have proven unsuccessful.)  In this book he creates a time machine to take him back to Commander Virtue’s youth, in an attempt to stop him while he is young and vulnerable.  However, as you can imagine, his attempts prove unsuccessful - but hilarious - once again.

Why I love this book:  
Vordak’s unwavering faith in his talent, in the face of complete and utter failure set the stage for a hilarious story.  Of course, when you add in his superiors attitude towards the reader who sees Vordak’s impending doom, kids can’t help but love this story.  

I like the way Vordak addresses the reader directly.  It helps to pull them into the story immediately.   The visuals are also well done and are a perfect compliment.

Who this book is for: 
The format is like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, so kids who like well illustrated novels will enjoy this one.  It is a good pick for reluctant readers because the story is not overwhelming and the humor is abundant.

You do not have to read the books in order to appreciate them.  They each stand alone.

Final thoughts:
Muahahahahahahah!  Kids will have wonderful time reading about Vordak’s sinister exploits to rule the world!

To purchase this book:
Click on the following link to connect to Amazon: Vordak the Incomprehensible: Time Travel Trouble  A portion of each purchase goes back to support this blog at no cost to you.  Thank you for your support.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Think Again Is Fun Nonfiction for Kids

Time for some nonfiction!  This week I have a fun one that I actually had to go dig out of my son's room.  He read it so much it had taken up residence.  But I was thrilled that he enjoyed learning the science and reasons behind some of the great misconceptions out there.

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Title:       Think Again

Author:   Clive Gifford

Target:    Grade 3 and up

What this book is about:  
This book is a version of myth busters.  Do you think: 1) the Model T only came in black? 2) Cleopatra was an ancient Egyptian? 3) Einstein failed math at school? 4) you only use 10% of your brain? or 5) you lose 40% of your body heat through your head?  Well if you thought that … you would be wrong.  This book explains how common misconceptions took hold, and what science has to say about them.  It is time to see the truth!

Why I love this book:  
First off the format of the book is fun with playful illustrations and photos. Descriptions are concise but informative.  A kid could get lost in all this information, but Gifford makes it understandable and even more, helps kids understand where the misconceptions may have originated.

I like that the book encourages kids not to take everything they hear as fact.  A book that encourages them to think critically about what is in front of them is imperative in this information age.

Who this book is for: 
My son couldn’t put this book down.  He kept being amazed that what he thought was true was in fact flawed.  Fun myth buster book.

Final thoughts:  
Go seek the truth - but not about my hair color!

To purchase this book:
Click on the following link to connect to Amazon: Think Again! False Facts Attacked and Myths Busted  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog at no cost to you.  Thank you for your support.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Critter Club Is a Good Early Chapter Book

Early Chapter Books are always the hardest.  This is when you want to get your child excited about independent reading.  You know practice makes perfect so you want to get as many books in their hot little hands as possible.

But as with all new readers, sometimes the book is too hard, sometimes too boring, sometimes too babyish.  Keep trying and give them a variety of choices.  Most early chapter books are written as a series so that you can keep the winners coming ... because the only way for kids to get better at reading is to read.  No other way around it.

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Title:       The Critter Club: Amy and the Missing Puppy

Author:  Callie Barkley

Target:   Grades 1-3

Series:    Yes

What this book is about: 
A group of four friends, each with a variety of interests are getting ready for Spring Break.  Amy is stuck at home, so she decides to help her mother out at her veterinary clinic.  When a client’s puppy goes missing, Amy is on the case, collecting clues and investigating leads.  As her friends come home, they help her out, until surprise, surprise …. they find the puppy.

Why I love this book:
Early chapter books can be tedious so I am always happy to find one that has snappy enough writing to keep me interested.  This one was spot on and not too repetitive. The mystery was a cute twist to keep the arc of the story going.

Who this book is for: 
Kids who like Princess Posey should gravitate to these stories.  This is also good for kids who like animals as every story has an animal theme - bet you never guessed with a name like The Critter Club!  Large type and pictures on almost every page make this a good book for kids just starting to tackle chapter books.

Final thoughts: 
A nice entrant into the early chapter book category.

To purchase this book:
Click on the following link to connect to Amazon: Amy and the Missing Puppy (The Critter Club)  A portion of each purchase goes back to support this blog at no cost to you.  Thank you for your support.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Noggin Is a Wonderful Read

Sometimes I read a book that just blows me away, and this is that book.  The creativity, the humor and the touching moments make this a brilliant read.  I laughed, I cried, I cringed!

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Title:       Noggin

Author:  John Corey Whaley

Target:   Grades 8 and up

Series:    No

What this book is about: 
Travis is sixteen and has leukemia, incurable leukemia.  An opportunity is presented to him where he can have his head removed from his disease ravaged body and saved until science is able to transplant that head on to a healthy body.  Five years later he wakes up to a world that has moved forward, a girlfriend who is engaged to someone else and a body that is strong and healthy (and happily a few inches taller than his old one.)   But managing this miracle, for all involved, is more challenging than anyone expected.

Why I love this book: 
Ok, this book is disturbing, a little creepy and so good I couldn’t put it down.  With this premise the story either has to be fabulous or it will feel like a big mistake.  Thankfully it is masterfully done.

This story works because it is about the personal journeys everyone is going through as they deal with Tavis returning.  Travis is such an appealing character that you can’t help liking him immediately and he adds enough levity to his situation that the book never gets bogged down in being too sentimental.

This book had my crying and cheering, laughing and cringing.  I read it in one sitting.

Who this book is for: 
I couldn’t wait to get this book in the hands of my teenage son.  There is some swearing in the book and some references to sex, although there is no actual sex in the book.  The amazing love and empathy in the book, however, is the show stopper.

Final thoughts:  
The absolute best head transplant story you will read this year.

To purchase this book:
Click on the following link to connect to Amazon: Noggin  A portion of each purchase goes back to support this blog at no cost to you.  Thank you for your support.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Boys and Books for the Summer

I know what you are thinking.  No I really do.  It is impossible to get boys to write during the summer.  That was it wasn't it?  Well I am going to turn your world upside down today!  Rock your existence ... you get the idea.

The two books I am profiling today will have your boys with a pen in hand.  I can't guarantee the outcome ... but I can guarantee it will be fun.

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I like to think of this as the anti diary.  There is nothing pink or frilly here.  No pens with fancy plumes.  Instead of writing their deepest, darkest secrets, boys can:

 - List all the candy bars they have tried,

- Write down the most awesome video games they have played (and their highest scores)

- Answer quizzes about: the best things to put on a hot dog, the most ideal type of peanut butter and whether brownies or chocolate chips cookies rule.

No boy (I mean Dude) should be without this one.

Ok, how about a book that begs to be destroyed.  No your son is not dreaming.  This book will get dirty, it will have holes poked into it, paint and soda will be spilled on it, and food will be smeared on the pages.  But don't despair - creativity is sometimes messy.  This book allows kids to go outside the lines and let go of the perfection required in school.  It is, in fact, the perfect antidote to school, requiring reckless abandon.

After this book, there is no way your son will be able to say he doesn't like to write journal entries. Ha!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Ick! Yuck! Eew! Is Just That

Nothing like a book with a serious "Ick" factor to get kids interested in history!  Today I have a book which is NOT for the squeamish but represents what life was like for our ancestors.  You will never take indoor plumbing for granted again!

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Title:       Ick! Yuck! Eew! Our Gross American History

Author:  Lois Miner Huey

Target:   Grades 4 and up

What this book is about: 
Kids read a lot about what life was like in historical times.  Usually they imagine that the smells and hygiene were similar to what we experience today.  This could not be further from the truth!  In Ick! Yuck! Eew! kids get a realistic look at the sanitation of the city streets (manure filled), the cleanliness of our ancestors (baths were considered bad and chamber pots were not always emptied), the purity of the homes (bedbugs, mosquitos and lice were common place) and the medical care for citizens (leeches and puke weed were considered remedies).  No child will be as willing to hop into a time machine after reading this version of what life was really like!

Why I love this book: 
There is something refreshing about giving kids a realistic picture of the past.  While I am a huge fan of fantasy, we can’t really understand our history until we know all the messy, stinky, odiferous truths about it.  This book will also help kids appreciate so many of the things we take for granted - indoor plumbing and a toothbrush being just the tip of the iceberg!  

The book is laid out with wonderfully gross pictures on every page and the text is fun and easy to follow, with lots of sidebars of interesting tidbits.

Who this book is for: 
This book is not for the squeamish.  There really are some gross photos, so be prepared.  Your kids have to be willing to face the real deal of small pox and rotten teeth - I mean really rotten teeth!

Final thoughts: 
I dare you not to itch after reading the chapter on the creepy crawly bugs.  I think I am still scratching!

To purchase this book:
Click on the following link to connect to Amazon: Ick! Yuck! Eew!: Our Gross American History  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog at no cost to you.  Thank you for your support.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Happy Birthday Cupcake Cousins

Today I get to celebrate a book birthday.  What is a book birthday you ask?  Well it is the first day a book is available for purchase - a monumental occasion in any book's life - just ask them.

The book I received was from NetGalley, a service where bloggers can request books for review.  It was provided free of charge, with no expectation of a positive review (but I did really like it!)  I am trying this service on a limited basis in an effort to get new titles reviewed and out to my reader's more quickly.   I will continue to experiment with using the service, and I will always let you know when I receive a book this way.  However, if I ever feel that it compromises my ability to deliver an impartial review I will cease and desist.

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Title:       Cupcake Cousins

Author:   Kate Hannigan

Target:    Grades 2-5

Series:     Not at this point, but I could see more adventures for Willow and Delia

What this book is about: 
Cousins Willow and Delia meet up every year at a summer beach house on Lake Michigan.  This year there is added excitement because their Aunt Rose is getting married at the house.  The cousins have been assigned the task of flower girls.  Now, they feel that as fourth graders, they may be a bit too old to be flower girls and don’t get them started on the bright bubble gum pink dresses they will have to wear.  

In an effort to get their Aunt Rose to see them as more mature and assign them a new wedding task, they take on the challenge of trying to get her to let them bake cupcakes for the wedding.  However, their kitchen exploits turn out less than stellar and may even set them back in their pursuit.

Why I love this book:  
First off, I love the cousin relationship between Willow and Delia. There is just something special about a friendship with cousins - like a sister only better.  Their relationship felt quite real and just like the times I get together with my cousins.  

I also loved that Delia comes from a mixed race family and it is not an issue in the slightest.  My daughter is surrounded in school and home by a mix of ethnicities and it is nice to see that reflected in the books she reads.  I appreciate that Hannigan colored the landscape.

My favorite part of the book, however, was that it felt like fun innocence without being old fashioned or stuffy.  These girls are real fourth graders - they have adventures, make mistakes and act silly, just like my daughter.

If I have on criticism of the book, it is more a missed opportunity.  There are plenty of cupcake books with girls baking their hearts out (and strangely these cousins never do bake cupcakes).  Books with recipes included are a dime a dozen and the name and format of this book will put is solidly in the camp with those myriad of books.  However, in this book each girl (and boy) is named after a flower. (Did you notice - Rose, Delia, Willow)  It would have been quite fun to have explanations on the  characteristics of each flower name between chapters, as opposed to more recipes   A different angle to set this book apart because it really is a delightful read.

Who this book is for:  
This book reminded me quite a bit of Lulu and the Dog from the Sea, which was a Cybils finalist.  Perhaps it was the family vacation at the beach, cousins together with a lovable dog and the innocence of the story.  They are not identical, but do have a similar vibe.  I also was reminded of The Penderwicks in tone, and when I read the author’s web page, it proved to be one of her influences, which did not surprise me in the slightest.  If your child liked either of these two books, this one will be a hit.

The book is an early chapter book for those kids who are starting to become more confident chapter book readers.  This is not for kids just starting chapter books.

Final thoughts:
This book will ensure kids have lovely adventures to read about that simply make them smile and giggle.

To purchase this book:
Click on the following link to connect to Amazon: Cupcake Cousins  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog at no cost to you.  Thank you for your support.

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Selection Is a Can't Put Down Read

This week I have a book that is a cross between The Bachelor and Hunger Games.  This book definitely falls into the higher end of my age range, but it is fun addictive reading at it's finest.  No awards here, but I guarantee a can't put down read.

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Title:       The Selection

Author:   Kiera Cass

Target:    Grades 7 and up

Series:     Yes

What this book is about: 
America Singer is a Five.  In fact every person has a number which designates their role in the caste system in Illea.  A One signifies royalty and a Six is no better than an indentured servant.  Prince Maxon is required to select a girl of Illea to marry and a lottery is held.  America is determined not to enter.  She is in love with Aspen, who is a Six, and it is very difficult to marry down.   In fact, so difficult, Aspen has broken America’s heart in order to save her from the burden of life as a Six.   But America’s mother is determined to have her children rise in rank, and when America is selected to be one of thirty five girls from which Prince Maxon has to chose, America goes to show Aspen he cannot break her.   

Why I love this book:  
Ok this book is pure guilty pleasure.  Think Hunger Games meets The Bachelor (with no fights to the death).  While this is not the type of book I usually like, even I got completely caught up in this one and read it in one day!  This is the stuff juicy soap operas are made of.  I wish I could tell you there were larger redeeming qualities to the book, and on some level the author does try to address the issues of a class system and discovering oneself, but that is not what keeps you reading.

The story is actually reminiscent of Shannon Hale’s Princess Academy, but juicier.

Who this book is for: 
I have rated it for a higher grade level because of the sexual content.  Now let me explain.  There is no actual sex in the book, but there is lustful longing and references to virginity.  It is really all very tame, but the references do take the story up a notch.  If your children have read the Twilight series this will be on par for them.

Final thoughts:  
At this point I am team Maxon, but we will have to see after the second book!  Addictive stuff!

To purchase this book:
Click on the following link to connect to Amazon: The Selection  A portion of each purchase will go back to support this blog at no cost to you.  Thank you for your support.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Lego Books for Summer Fun

With summer around the corner it is time to think of great books that will fill kid's imaginations, encourage them to excersise their brain muscles and continue to get them to see books as a part of their everyday lives ... and not just schoolwork.

What a better way to do that than with Lego books!  Combine their love of building with books that will fuel their creativity to use these engineering design tools.  You just might be inspired yourself to sit down on the floor and build.  Hey, if you can't get to a hotel pool on vacation, you can recreate one out of Legos on your living room floor.  No sunblock required.

This book is fun for older builders.  It is inspirational, so don't expect detailed step by step instructions.  However, it is filled with tips from Lego master builders who tackle animals, castles, robots, racetracks, prehistoric beasts and things that go bump in the night - to name just a few.  I loved the "handful of bricks" in each chapter were builders were given the same small sample of Lego pieces and had to use their imaginations to build whatever they could come up with.  There are also "quick builds" in each chapter that give kids directions for a small model they can build based on the theme being discussed.  Kids will be looking through this one for hours.

This next book was written by Sean Kenney, one of the prolific builders in the Lego community.  What I love about this book is that you don't need complicated kits or hundreds of Lego pieces to maximize your creativity and fun with this building toy.  Sean has taken 35 pieces and shows kids how to use them to build robots, buildings, vehicles and animals.  Fun book to take on the go.  You can fit all the Lego pieces needed in a sandwich size baggie!

This book is more of an encyclopedia of mini figures throughout the ages.  For kids who love Legos, it is quite fun to see how the mini figures have evolved and how many new additions have been born. It is also a reminder of sets that are no longer produced ... and who can resist seeing if they are in possession of one of the rare mini figures that only a handful of collectors can claim they posses!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Lulu's Mysterious Mission Is a Wonderful Early Chapter Book

I am so excited today ... and I mean really excited!!  A new Lulu book is a big deal in our house.  I wish I could pretend that it is only my daughter who drives all the enthusiasm behind this series but that would be an outright lie.  Even I got a flutter of excitement as I opened the Amazon box and we both shouted "Lulu!" in unison.

If I were being held hostage by a group of rogue librarians and they made me pick only one early chapter book to read to a group of sugar crazed 2nd graders, with no other choices in sight ... I would pick Lulu ... hands down.

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Title:       Lulu’s Mysterious Mission

Author:   Judith Viorst

Target:    Grades 1-4

Series:     Yes

What this book is about:  
In Lulu’s latest adventure, her parents decide to take a trip on their own (gasp!) and Lulu must stay with a babysitter.  However, this babysitter is most definitely NOT Mary Poppins and Lulu is NOT pleased.  After concocting several schemes to eliminate the sitter from her home, Lulu finally comes to a truce with her when her babysitter reveals an astonishing secret.  Now Lulu is begging her to stay!

Why I love this book:
First, I LOVE the Lulu books.  Judith Viorst has a wonderful way of including kids in the story and making them feel apart of the action.  Between addressing the reader directly and creating repetitive and clever rhymes, kids are caught right up in the adventure.  

Before she even starts the book, Viorst confesses that the title may be misleading. 
She didn’t think kids would pick up a book titled “Lulu’s Babysitter.”  She then feels slightly bad about tricking the reader and tells them she might … just might put something in about a mysterious mission. This is good stuff and readers will just eat it up.

Now the illustrator for this book is different from the first two.  Originally the pictures were done by Lane Smith and they are brilliant.  In an early chapter book the pictures work very much in harmony with the text and Smith paints an absolutely charming and perfect depiction of Lulu.  The new artist Kevin Cornell worried me a bit.  Now he has a lot a great book credits to his name, so he isn’t too shabby a choice to replace Smith, but his pictures are much more realistic, as opposed to the stylized art of Smith.  While at first glance I thought I would be disappointed, as my daughter and I read the story, the illustrations grew on me, and by the end I was a much bigger fan.

Who this book is for: 
Please don’t let the fact the main character is a girl dissuade you from picking this book up for a boy.  It is a wonderful gender neutral story, and Lulu’s escapades will bring delight to all kids.  I read this book aloud to my daughter and it is wonderful delivered that way.  If your child is an independent reader, the pages have large type and pictures are on most pages.  Probably the most intimidating thing about the book is the length at 182 pages.

Final thoughts:
I loved the first Lulu book, I was charmed by the second Lulu book but this third Lulu book was a home run!  My daughter and I are unwavering fans!

To purchase this book:
Click on the following link to connect to Amazon: Lulu's Mysterious Mission  A portion of each purchase goes back to support this blog at no cost to you.  Thank you for your support.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Shadow Throne for Middle Grade Readers

My son grabbed this book the moment it came through the door, so I had to take my place in line to read it.  I had meant to get my review out sooner, but the book got lost in the junk heap my son likes to call a bedroom.  However, I did triumph in finding it and now I am able to share my book reading wisdom with you, for what it is worth.

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Title:       The Shadow Throne

Author:   Jennifer Nielsen

Target:    Grades 5 and up

Series:     Yes

What this book is about:  
In this third and final installment of The Ascendance Trilogy, Carthya is at war and King Jaron must find a away to keep his many enemies at bay.  When the girl he loves is taken hostage, and foreign countries begin descending on his realm he must use his wiliest and cleverest ideas to outwit armies that are many times mightier than his.  Through his craftiness and deceit he is able to make small inroads, but in the end, can he win the war?

Why I love this book:  
It was fun to finally get to the end of this adventure.  Jaron is a character that has always appealed to me.  His crafty ways and brash humor make him infinitely likable.  Part of the fun of the story is always to see what clever means he will use to get out of a difficult predicament.

Of all the books, this one was probably my least favorite but I do the like the series as a whole.  The villains were not as well crafted, and it felt more like a series of hurdles that Jaron had to jump through to get to the successful conclusion of the book, rather than the development of the arc of the story.  I never felt nervous for Jaron and some of the twists felt much more obvious than in the first two books, which may be because the characters have become predictable.

Who this book is for: 
Kids must read this series in order, so this book is for kids who have read the first two books, The False Prince and The Runaway King.  Kids who like The Ranger’s Apprentice series will enjoy these stories.

Final thoughts: 
A fun, adventurous series.  While the quality varies a bit between the books, most kids won’t notice and they will heartily enjoy Jaron’s exploits.

To purchase this book:
Click on the following link to connect to Amazon: The Shadow Throne: Book 3 of The Ascendance Trilogy  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog at no cost to you.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Clever Book for Mother's Day

With Mother's Day almost upon us, I thought I would share a book that is quite fitting for that special occasion.

This book is filled with illustrations from the classic Little Golden Books we all grew up reading or someone special read to us (yes I am talking about your mom!)  Each familiar illustration is filled with advice such as "Get some exercise every day" "Be a hugger" and "Let your children know you love them."

Of course, in the front they can write in their name "This Little Golden Book belongs to ........."  Now what mom can resist that?  This is nostalgia and it's best, with quite a few giggles thrown in.  I mean some of these illustrations are even cuter than I remember!

So Happy Mother's Day to all those great moms out there who are encouraging their kids to read every day  These are the women who are providing them with books that stir their imagination and tickle their funny bone.  You are the best.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Belly Up for Throwback Thursday

Thought I would join Throwback Thursday and repost a book from last year that my son and I loved. The author has just come out with the sequel, Poached (FunJungle) which I can't wait to read and my son is begging me to bring home.

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Title:       Belly Up

Author:   Stuart Gibbs

Target:    Grades 5-8

Series:     Yes

What this book is about:
Teddy’s parents have gone to work at America’s newest animal theme park, FunJungle.  Teddy has the run of the place while his parents are working, but when the beloved mascot Henry the Hippo turns up dead, Teddy believes something is afoot other than natural causes!  The more he investigates, the more danger he seems to be in.  Will he be able to prove what happened, or will he be the next victim?

Why I love this book:
This is a fun mystery, but I have to admit it tips the gross scales a bit.  That will probably be a big selling point for kids, but as an adult I could have done with a little less hippo poop.  That said, I was totally caught up in the mystery and actually learned quite a few animal facts in spite of myself.

Teddy is a good character and with his sidekick Summer, they make a strong team.  The mystery had enough twists and turns to keep the story moving and the reader guessing.  It was also quite educational to understand what goes on behind the scenes at your favorite amusement parks.

Who this book is for:
I have targeted it a little older because there are some language issues and dead animals, which may bother some.  But there is a lot of humor and great twists and turns in the story, so most kids will be thoroughly engaged.

Final thoughts:
I prefer my animals belly down after this read!

To purchase this book: 
click on the following link to connect to Amazon: Belly Up  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog at no cost to you.  Thank you for the support.