Monday, June 30, 2014

Jessica Darling - A Book for Girls Going Into Middle School

I thought it was a good time to share a book about entering Middle School.  This is a fun summer read for any girl, but especially those that are making the transition to a new school environment.

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Title:       Jessica Darling’s It List

Author:   Megan McCafferty

Target:    Grades 5-8

Series:    Yes

What this book is about: 
Jessica Darling is nothing like her sister, who was one of the most popular girls in their middle school.  When Jessica’s sister gives her the list containing the secrets for guaranteed popularity, prettiness and perfection, Jessica doesn’t know where to start.  As she missteps her way through the list, it does inadvertently help her tumble into things that just may suit her.  She may never be the “it” girl her sister was, but she does end being happy.

Why I love this book: 
This book is not an award winner, but it is a fun story with good messages.  I like that McCafferty doesn’t make the pretty/popular girl mean or unkind.  I like that McCaffery shows that the things that make us popular in middle school are not the things that will make us successful in the long run.  I like that the book deals with how hard it can be to move away from those friends you came to middle school with from elementary school.

Who this book is for: 
Great summer read for girls.  This book is a prequel to the Jessica Darling series that takes place in High School.  I have not read that series, but this new middle school series is fun and entertaining.

Final thoughts:
No “it” list would have helped me in middle school.  Not my best time. I have burnt all the evidence.

To purchase this book:
Click on the following link to connect to Amazon: Jessica Darling's It List: The (Totally Not) Guaranteed Guide to Popularity, Prettiness & Perfection  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog at no cost to you.  Thank you for your support.


Friday, June 27, 2014

Codename Zero for Spy Loving Readers

I am pulling a book out of my pile that I read months ago, but it just never made it on to the blog.  Sometimes books just get lost in the shuffle and I would hate for you to miss this one.  See, I really do care.

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Title:       Codename Zero

Author:   Chris Rylander

Target:    Grade 4-7

Series:     Not at this point

What this book is about: 
Carson has lived in North Dakota … boring North Dakota .... for his whole life.  He plays elaborate pranks to keep things from getting too dull and predictable.  But when someone hands him a top secret package in the middle of the day and then that someone gets shoved into a car by some evil looking men, Carson knows something more is afoot in North Dakota than he has ever suspected.  As he discovers secret agencies operating in his town and is pulled into a government operation to help protect a boy in his school, his life in North Dakota no longer seems so dull.

Why I love this book: 
This is a fun adventure, with good twists and turns throughout to keep kids guessing.  What kid hasn’t hoped that one day he/she will be pulled into a real espionage situation, where only a seventh grader can make a difference.

The kid Carson is protecting has problems with English (not being a native speaker), which provides just enough comic relief to keep kids laughing.  If I have one criticism it is that the spy stuff takes a little too long to get going.  This is the best part of the book and I would have liked to see it start sooner.

Who this book is for: 
Kids who like action/adventure books will enjoy this one.  Reminded me a little of The Genius Files where kids get secretly recruited into a government agency.

Final thoughts: 
Cover is terrific so you won’t have to sell kids on picking this one up.

To purchase this book:
Click on the following link to connect to Amazon: Codename Zero (The Codename Conspiracy)  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog at no cost to you.  Thank you for your support.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Final Lunch Lady Has Spoken

I have been meaning to profile the last Lunch Lady graphic novel for a while now, but so much stuff just got in the way!  Sadly J. Krosoczka has wrapped up his Lunch Lady series, to the chagrin of kids and parents everywhere.

I have yet to meet a kid who doesn't love this series and no one can read these books without acquiring a new found respect for the men and women who deliver a nutritious lunch to a set of hungry school children every day.

J. Krosoczka has completed the series with a fun and gadget filled last book.  Thank you for 10 episodes of laughs and above all Justice!

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Title:       Lunch Lady and the Schoolwide Scuffle

Author:  Jarrett Krosczka

Target:   Grades 1-3

Series:    Yes

What this book is about:  
In this final book in the series, the Lunch Ladies have been fired due to cuts in the school budget.  As a result, crime is running rampant and an evil superintendent has taken over the school.  Oh, did I forget to mention that the Lunch Ladies not only meet the dietary needs of the students, they also keep peace and justice with their superior defensive skills, linguine lassos, whisk wackers, and s’more stars.  Can the kids who know the secret skills of the Lunch Ladies convince them to return to bring order back at Thompson Brook School?

Why I love this series:  
These books are just absolutely fun.  Along with Babymouse and Squish, this series provides beginning readers with easy to tackle stories that are full of clever gadgets, evil villains and the least likely of heroes!  I have yet to find a child who hasn’t devoured these stories.

Who this book is for:  
Great for kids who are mastering early readers and early chapter books.  I would recommend the books in order.   While each story does stand alone, there is an arc to the characters so starting from the beginning helps with understanding.  

Final thoughts: 
Lunch Lady is a fabulous graphic novel that gives early readers a chance to read fun and engaging narratives that really are satisfying for them.

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

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Miracle Mud is a Fun Baseball Book for Kids

Well, I have to say that our family has World Cup fever.  However, deep in the recesses of our sports obsessed brains, we have not forgotten about our first love, baseball.  It may be on the back burner for now, but rest assured, when the futball mania has ended, we will return ... I think.  But we still love baseball books, and with season in full swing, I have a fun one to add to your collection.

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Title:       Miracle Mud

Author:  David Kelly

Target:   Grade 1-4

What this book is about: 
Lena Blackburne wanted to be a great baseball player …. but he wasn’t.  What he never expected to do was fix a problem that had plagued players for years … wet and soggy baseballs.  Because baseballs arrive from the factory shinny and slick, they are difficult for pitchers to throw and batters to hit.  They were using buckets of water, spit, tobacco, and shoe polish to prime the balls, but nothing really worked.  Nothing, that is, until Lean Blackburne came across some mud … miracle mud!

Why I love this book: 
Not all kids can be famous athletes, but all kids have the ability to solve problems.  I love this book because Lena was able to become successful in the game he loved, even though he wasn’t as great an athlete as he would have like to be.  A nice message for kids.

The graphics in the book are striking and really evoke the feel and nostalgia of the game.  I like that kids get to learn a little tidbit about baseball that they probably didn’t know before.

Who this book is for: 
Well kids who love baseball will enjoy the story, but the message of creative ingenuity is great for all kids

Final thoughts: 
I am not this enthusiastic about the mud my kids bring home.

To purchase this book:
Click on the following link to connect to Amazon: Miracle Mud: Lena Blackburne and the Secret Mud That Changed Baseball  A portion of each purchase will go back to support this blog at no cost to you.  Thank you for your support.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Book About Ninjas

Ninjas!  Do I really have to say more?  You're welcome.

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Title:       Diary of a 6th Grade Ninja

Author:  Marcus Emerson

Target:   Grades 3-6

Series:    Yes

What this book is about: 
Chase Cooper is eleven and has just moved to a new school.  He is scrawny and unpopular, so when an opportunity presents itself to join a band of middle school ninjas that meet during PE, Chase throws himself into the challenge.  The only problem is that these ninjas appear to be bad guys, which is not sitting right with Chase.  Will he stick with it or strike back?  I know, the suspense is killing you - ancient ninja trick.

Why I love this book:  
It is not often that I see such good quality in a self published book, and this one is a winner.  I am frankly surprised that a publisher hasn’t picked this series up.  It has a lot of humor, some good action and ninjas … I mean come on …. ninjas!

While the fight scene at the end was probably not too realistic it was an effective way to illustrate the power kids have when they stick up for each other and do the right thing.

Who this book is for: 
This book is nice for reluctant readers.  At 84 pages and with pictures scattered throughout it does not feel intimidating.  However, while it is billed as a diary, it is not in a diary format.

Final thoughts:
I so want to learn some awesome, crazy ninja moves.

To purchase this book:
Click on the following link to connect to Amazon: Diary of a 6th Grade Ninja  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog at no cost to you.  Thank you for your support.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Random Acts of Kindness for Kids

The book I am profiling today is just such a fun summer read.  I hope that it inspires kids to get out and do the small acts of kindness that can make such a big difference in the long run. If this book doesn't get them going ... nothing will.

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Title:       The Summer I Saved the World in 65 Days

Author:  Michele Hurwitz

Target:   Grades 5-9

Series:    No

What this book is about: 
Nina is feeling a little lost the summer after 8th grade and the start of high school.  However, when she secretly plants marigolds for her neighbor on crutches, she realizes that maybe she can make a differences this break.  Her history teacher said, “It is very often the ordinary things that go unnoticed that end up making a difference,”  so she embarks on a quest to do one good small unnoticed thing every day of summer - 65 days.  While she may not save the world, she does bring a community closer together.

Why I love this book: 
I was very excited to read this book.  I just love the idea of random acts of kindness and I think we need to do a few more of these in our lives.  It is all too easy to just sit by and not get up and do something for others, but Nina finally gets up and doesn’t wait for someone else to step up and help.  I admire that.

I think that most kids who read this book will be motivated to start their own acts of kindness.  What a great summer project.  How lovely is that?

The story itself is a nice tale about growing up at what is sometimes a different pace from those around you.  It is also about branching out and finding what works for you.  Nice messages for kids in the tween years.

Who this book is for: 
Nice book for tween girls.  Not a lot of action but a lovely story about growing up.

Final thoughts:
I will do a good unnoticed deed today in honor of this book!

To purchase this book:
Click on the following link to connect to Amazon: The Summer I Saved the World . . . in 65 Days  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog at no cost to you.  Thank you for your support.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Frosting and Friendship is a Winning Book Combination

I am adding another book to the baking/friendship list.  It seems the day that cupcake shops came into vogue was the day that books about girls baking cupcakes started spewing out of the publisher's printing presses.

Each series has a little different take, and I focused on this one today because I liked the messages of multitasking.  A kid's day is so full of activities, and the expectations are so high on their performance, that it is nice to see a book that shows how much kids struggle to keep everyone happy. I think more girls will see themselves in this book than I would like to admit!

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Title:       Frosting and Friendship

Author:  Lisa Schroeder

Target:   Grade 3-6

Series:   There are two companion books but they do not have to be read in order

What this book is about: 
Lily is not a baker but she does love to sing.  When her good friend starts a mother/daughter book club and calls it the Baking Bookworms, Lily decides she can try and improve her baking skills, which seems a whole lot better than being left out.  The problem (and yes there always is one) is that trying to be a better baker takes time away from her band and they need her full attention.  With only so much time in the day, how can she keep everyone, including herself, happy?

Why I love this book: 
This was a cute story about not being able to do it all.  Lilly is a good kid who is trying to please everyone.  I felt for Lilly who wanted to try and make things great for all her friends. 

The book is well written for this genre of girl friendship/baking books.  Although, I had no doubt they would work it all out in the end, I think girls will appreciate not wanting to let anything opportunity go and trying to multitask. 

Who this book is for: 
Girls who like The Cupcake Diaries, which also focuses each book on a different friend, will find this series a pleasure. 

Final thoughts: 
They have a chocolate no bake cookie recipe in the back I think my daughter and I will try this weekend.  Just stir and go - right up my baking alley.  Perhaps Lily and I have more in common than I realized (except the singing - my family forbids me to do that.)

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

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Great Graphic Novel for Kids

I thought I would start off with a rather sophisticated graphic novel today.  This one deals with the author of the graphic novel series Amelia Rules.  Jimmy Gownley profiles his journey to becoming a graphic artist and along the way he writes a book about growing up and following your passion.  The book has humor and heart, and continues to show how "comics" have grown up as a story telling genre.

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Title:       The Dumbest Idea Ever!

Author:  Jimmy Gownley

Target:   Grades 6 and up

Series:    No

What this book is about: 
This is an autobiographical novel that explores how the author became a cartoonist.  At thirteen he is the brightest kid in the class and the star basketball player.  However, an illness forces him to miss quite a bit of school and he starts to become disillusioned with working so hard.   Slowly his grades start to slip.  His real satisfaction comes from creating comic books.  As he starts to devote time and energy to this endeavor he realizes this is his passion. While this path is quite a bit different than what was expected of him, his parents support him, despite an environment that doesn’t quite see the value in “comics.”

Why I love this book: 
This book is, in part, a look at what it takes to really be good at something.  It also is about how to find inspiration when the answer isn’t obvious.  That can be applied to a lot of things, not just creating comics.  What do you do when you are in conflict with what is expected and what you aspire to do?  The book also touches on the changes kids face in high school and is a realistic look at growing up.

If your child has ever had aspirations to pursue cartooning, this book will be a wonderful heartfelt account of Jimmy’s journey.  The road is not always easy and I like that the book shares Jimmy’s self doubt.

Who this book is for: 
Kids who liked John Scieszka’s Knucklehead will appreciate this story.  While this book isn’t quite as laugh inducing, it is a realistic look at growing up, and kids will appreciate the similarities to their own life.  Kids who aspire to comic book writing will consider this a true gift.

Final thoughts: 
Just another example of the power and insight that graphic novels can impart.  Do you still need more convincing?

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

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Truck Books for Kids

Now that my vehicle obsessed sons are in Middle School and High School, I occasionally forget the frantic search through the library for more books on the subject.  If I had to read one more of those Hot Wheels books I was afraid I might drive right off the cliff.  But I stoically read them for the good of my sons' developing brains and now they seem to be high functioning kids - then again I could be fooling myself.

This of course leads me to investigate fun new truck books that are out there.  I can now enjoy the myriad of articulated dump trucks and front loaders in these stories, because they are not apart of my daily life.  Just a nice memory!  I also get to find some selections that also help your kids with Letters and Counting.  Now how nice is that?

There are two books today so keep scrolling down so you don't miss one.  No favoritism ... I didn't like the first one better.

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Title:      Alphabet Trucks


Author:   Samantha Vamos

Target:    Preschool - Kindergarten

What this book is about: 
This is a truck book that introduces vehicles that start with every letter in the alphabet, in a rhyming couplet.  While some of the standard trucks are covered, creativity also abounds with the Knuckle-Boom truck, the Winch Truck and the Lowboy Truck.

Why I love this book:  
My truck loving boys would have read this book ragged.  The variety of vehicles, their originality and the deceptively simple graphics all make this book a winner.  The rhyming struggles a bit at times, but after a few reads, parents should have the cadence down.

I also like that the graphics show both the upper and lower case of the letters of the alphabet (except for Q … I couldn’t find the lower case for Q!)

My one criticism of the book is that the cover is not compelling enough.  While the graphics are quite successful within the story, the book jacket does not draw readers in.  Ignore the cover and start reading, your truck loving kids will catch on right away to the fun of this book.

Who this book is for: 
Great book for kids who love trucks.  Nice alphabet book to help kids identify their letters.

Final thoughts: 
I love it when a book identifies little known trucks!  I thought after two boys I knew them all.  Well played Samantha Vamos!

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




Title:       20 Big Trucks in the Middle of the Street

Author:   Mark Lee

Target:    Preschool - Kindergarten

What this book is about:
One ice cream truck breaks down and starts a traffic jam of epic proportions in the neighborhood.  The story counts down the twenty trucks who are stuck behind it, from cement mixers to tankers to tow trucks.  However, a kid biking by has a clever idea involving the crane truck to solve this tie up, leaving a sweet treat at the end.

Why I love this book:
First off it is a wonderful book for kids who just like identifying trucks and their loads.  Then the book also brings in the counting component by counting down the twenty trucks as they get stuck.  My favorite shot is the arial view where kids can count down the twenty trucks in total.  

It is also lovely that a kid solves the problem.  It’s nice when books empower kids, and they certainly like it when they prove smarter than the adults around them!

Who this book is for:
Oh, definitely truck lovers


Final thoughts:
Another one my boys would have left dog eared if it had been around when they were young.

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

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Good Crooks is a Steal For Your Kids

The book I am profiling today should only be given to kids who like to laugh.  If you have a child who refuses to smile, who looks for ways to avoid fun or who breaks out in hives at the slightest guffaw, keep this book away from them .... far far away!

Early chapter books are never easy.   But this new series will please the pickiest of readers - so sit back and enjoy the moment.  You deserve it.

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Title:       Good Crooks: Missing Monkey!

Author:  Mary Amato

Target:   Grades 1-3

Series:    Yes

What this book is about: 
Imagine being in a family of crooks when all you want to do is help people?  Twins Billy and Jillian have criminals for parents who teach them how plan the master disguise, pick locks with aplomb, and look for opportunities to steal.  Billy and Jillian, however, enjoy making people happy - they do not enjoy taking their things.  The twins decide to use their powers of deception to deceive their parents into thinking they are crooks, while helping others at the same time (those tricky kids.)  

Why I love this book: 
This book has just the right amount of silly humor to draw kids into the story right away.  Between the twins “clever/laugh inducing” disguises and their attempts to subdue a monkey, no kid will be reading this one with a straight face.

The book is also a fun twist where the parents are on the wrong path and the kids are the ones with the moral compass.  Of course, any book where the kids are smarter than the adults is always a draw.

Who this book is for:
Good book for kids who are reading early chapter books.  Larger type and plentiful pictures (although not on every page) make this book feel manageable.  Nice for both boys and girls

Final thoughts: 
If your kids start singing The Elephant Parade Song, please forgive me.  At least it means they liked the book … right?

To purchase this book:
Click on the following link to connect to Amazon: Good Crooks Book One: Missing Monkey!   A portion of each purchase will go back to support this blog at no cost to you.  Thank you for your support.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Poached is a Must Read for Kids

Stuart Gibbs is at it again.  This is a wonderful author, so if you aren't familiar with his books, make sure you get a least one in the hands of your kids.  They will thank you for it.  No, I mean it ... actually thank you.

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Title:       Poached

Author:  Stuart Gibbs

Target:   Grade 4-8

Series:    Yes

Why I love this book:
The action and intrigue continue in this second book set at Fun Jungle, a Texas animal park.  This time when the prized Koala on loan from Australia goes missing, Teddy Fitzroy, who lives at the park with his parents, is the prime suspect.  The only way to get suspicion off himself is to find the real thief, which is never easy, is it?

Why I love this book:
As I was reading this book, I kept trying to figure out what makes all of Stuart Gibbs novels for kids so good.  My son grabbed this one the minute it came through the door and read it in one sitting, blowing off his computer time.  Now an author that makes my kids give up their computer time is one that makes me take notice!

I think that perhaps his magic is the combination of a compelling mystery where the who dun it is a challenge, nonstop action that keep kids on the edge of their seats, and a main characters that feel a lot like a real kid.

The other thing I really like about this book are the animal facts.  I learned interesting things about sharks and koalas. Hint: koalas are not like miniature teddy bears!

Who this book is for: 
Most kids who like action/mystery books will enjoy this one.  It is a companion book to Belly Up, but your kids don’t need to have read the first book to enjoy this one.  Kids who like animals will also enjoy learning details about animals as well as their care.

Final thoughts: 
Great covers for all of Stuart Gibbs’ books.  Fabulous branding - you can always pick out this guys stuff.

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

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Fly is an Engrossing Book for Kids

Today you will note that I have my finger on the pulse of what is cool, hip and totally engrossing for kids - the housefly!  I know what you're thinking ... good call Freya.

Well, I may not always get them right, but today I can tell you that most kids will beg you to read this story with them again and again.  Let's face it, after reading this book you will know that a book about houseflies is a lot better than the real thing.

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Title:       Disgusting Creatures: The Fly

Author:  Elise Gravel

Target:   Kindergarten - Grade 3

Series:   Yes

What this book is about: 
This book is about the common housefly.  The female is slightly bigger than the male (Ha!)  The female fly can lay over one hundred eggs (say hello to your 98 baby brothers and sisters!)  The fly has repulsive taste in food (garbage juice soup anyone?)   Kids will learn the basics of this annoying household pest, which will probably be no more welcome in your home after reading this book - they really can be disgusting!

Why I love this book: 
I was wandering through the bookstore when this book caught my eye.  The first thing that drew me in were the wonderful graphics.  They have a European flair and I found this book was initially published in French (aren’t I smart) - in Canada (ok, perhaps not so much!)  Oh well, I was close.  If not European, at least International. 

The second thing that kept me reading was the humor.  Elise Gravel has quite the funny bone.  The little sarcastic quips throughout the telling of the life of the fly made me forget I was actually learning about a fairly gross, disease carrying insect. Kids will giggle their way through this fact based book.  It was a favorite for my kids.

Who this book is for: 
I can’t imagine a kid not enjoying this book.  Elise Gravel really does make flies fun.

Final thoughts: 
A reviewer on Amazon did note two errors in the book which I think occurred in translation.  The first was referring to a spider as an insect and the second was incorrectly labeling the mom fly as the smaller one in an illustration.  I hope that the publisher corrects these in the next printing.

To purchase this book:
Click on the following link to connect to Amazon: The Fly (Disgusting Creatures)  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog at no cost to you.  Thank you for your support.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Sparky! Will Put a Twinkle in Your Eye

Oh, I am hoping my picture book jinx is lifting.  This is the second picture book in a row I have fallen in love with.  I don't want to get cocky and call the drought over, but....

This is one of the first books I have read that made me think Caldecott award.  It just has that lovely mix of sentimentality and humor, with understated but striking watercolor and pencil illustrations that says award winner to me.  We shall see ....

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Title:       Sparky!

Author:  Jenny Offill

Target:   Preschool - ?

What this book is about: 
Our narrator wants a pet, but in the fine tradition of mother’s everywhere, her mother says she can have one “as long as it doesn’t need to be walked or bathed or fed.”  Not one to be dissuaded, our narrator discovers the mighty Sloth!  She names him Sparky (she has high hopes) and tries quite unsuccessfully to teach him countless tricks (perhaps countless was a bit ambitious.)  While Sparky may not live up to his name, he does what all pets should do - inspire love.

Why I love this book:  
Oh, let me count the ways!  This is one of my first Caldecott contenders of the year.  It has humor, stunning illustrations and it pulls at your heartstrings in the sweetest  most un-sappy way - because you know I hate the sappy books.  

So often the most humorous books are not the ones that can touch you in a sentimental way.  This book crosses the divide.  It made me laugh while subtle lessons about perseverance, acceptance and responsibility abound.  The graphics are whimsical watercolors that complement, but do not betray, the humor of the text.

Who this book is for: 
Everyone!

Final thoughts: 
I think every kid will want a sloth after this book.  Be prepared for the begging!

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

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Books about Magic for Kids

Todays book was interesting in that the subject matter is for kids in grades four and five, but the type was large and picture were plentiful, making it more of an easy chapter book.  This book will either be read quickly by the target audience, or it will be a find for kids in these grades who are still struggling with chapter books.  All in all, it was the magic that made this a book worth recommending.

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Title:       The Vanishing Coin

Author:  Kate Egan

Target:   Grades 3-5

Series:   Yes

What this book is about: 
Mike has problems concentrating at school.  As a result he is constantly in the principal’s office.  However, when he and his neighbor Nora happen upon a magic shop one day, Mike is enthralled with the tricks and finds that he actually might have a talent for magic.  He uses magic as a way to build his self esteem and even manages to “magic” his way out a tough situation with a school bully.

Why I love this book: 
This book was fine and read fairly quickly.  What made it stand out for me were the magic tricks.  The book actually includes directions for the tricks that Mike learns and kids can practice them at home.  I would have loved this as a kid!  All the tricks are easily reproducible and they don’t need special props.  They can be done with things you can find around the house.

Who this book is for: 
The type on the book is large and the pictures are plentiful so this book is good for kids who are older who are still struggling a bit with chapter books.  It is also a fun recreational read for kids who are interested in learning magic.

Final thoughts: 
I am so doing the Shape Shift trick on my kids.  Watch them be amazed!

To purchase this book:
Click on the following link to connect to Amazon: The Vanishing Coin (Magic Shop)  Each purchase goes to support this blog at no cost to you.  Thank you for your support.

Monday, June 9, 2014

More Robot Battles for Kids

More robots for your reading pleasure.  Last week I gave you Bot Wars, and this week The Winter of the Robots.  How is that for tapping into the whole STEM movement?  Maybe the VEX robot which has been living on my kitchen island these last two weeks has subliminally influenced my reading choices?  Does that mean next week the books I profile will be filled with Rainbow Loom?

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Title:       The Winter of the Robots

Author:  Kurtis Scaletta

Target:   Grades 5-8

Series:    No

What this book is about: 
Jim is entering the science fair, and this year  he is going to build a robot.  With the help of his genius friend Oliver, they produce one that will battle their friends’ entry into the fair.  The next step is a robot battle at the mall.  While all this transpires, there are family issues for all four friends, sightings of some interesting things at the old abandoned robotics plant, and a death of one of the locals.  Are all these things intertwined? (guess yes!)  And, is the junkyard really inhabited by violent robots that have learned how to program a lethal weapon?

Why I love this book: 
Robotics made fun and suspenseful is always high on my list.  I love it when the science nerds rule the day!  I enjoyed how the robot battles kept escalating in importance until they culminated in the epic robot event.

I also thought the elements of the characters were well done.  Their friendships and changing dynamics rang true for me.

There were two elements that bothered me.  First off, my son is in robotics and actually went to the World Championships this year.  When I told him about what these kids were building and programing robots to do, he thought it was way over the top.  As he said, “my world championship team struggled to build a robot that picks up balls and gets them into a basket, and these kids are programing autonomous robot battles?”  Let’s just say this book gives kids more of a look at the future of robot technology as opposed to realistic robots they could build.  

I also felt like the ultimate robot battle comes too far into the book - I almost didn’t believe it was coming.  What was promised on the back of the cover takes a while and quite a few turns to come to fruition, although when it does it is really good!

Who this book is for: 
Nice middle grade novel for kids who like robots and battles, but are also willing to invest in some human interest and character development.  

Final thoughts: 
I wish these kids could mentor my son’s high school robotics team!

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

Friday, June 6, 2014

Ever After High

Today I thought I would tackle a book series you may be seeing around town - Ever After High.  In a nutshell, this series was created with Mattel and has a marketing tie-in with a doll collection.  It it the latest creation to piggy back on their success with Monster High.

They have however, enlisted the writing prowess of Shannon Hale, a Newbery Honor book winner -  so it is nice to see that they are trying to create quality books to accompany their toy collection.  If it gets more girls to read, then I am all for it!

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Title:       Ever After High: The Storybook of Legends

Author:  Shannon Hale

Target:   Grades 3-5

Series:    Yes

What this book is about: 
Ever After High is the school for  children of fairytale legends.  In their second year they must pledge an oath to their story, keeping it alive for another generation.  This year both Apple and Raven from the Snow White story are due to make their pledge.  The problem is that Raven, the daughter of the Evil Queen is not so sure she wants to live out her destiny.  She doesn’t particularly like being evil, but if she doesn’t commit to the story of Snow White, does that mean that Apple, daughter of Snow, will not get her happily ever after?

Why I like this book:
I love Shannon Hale.  Her work on Goose GirlRapunzel’s Revenge and Princess Academy was wonderful.  She is able to take classic fairytales and make the heroines feel modern and capable.  

This series is a bit of a departure for her.  These books are created as a tie-in with Mattel to sell a set of dolls.  The story was a bit more gimmicky and felt much more like cotton candy than the delicious dark chocolate truffles she usually creates.  However, even her cotton candy is still a cut above the rest, so if this story is up your daughter’s alley, then it is a fine entrant into the doll/book category.  If it gets more girls to read than I am all for it.

Who this book is for:
This is a girly book.  I felt that girls who like the whole fashion/fairytale vibe would be the best audience for this story.

Final thoughts: 
I have to say that I like these Ever After High dolls more than the Monster High ones!

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

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Most Magnificent Thing is a Magnificent Picture Book

I have been hurting for picture books lately.  I keep reading books that have left me very uninspired.  I had this slump last year, right before a plethora of great stuff came on the market, so I am hoping that I just have to bide my time and soon an avalanche of great stuff will follow.

That said, I did find this book, which was a break in the clouds.  It just made my week to find a picture book that made me smile, that had inspired illustrations and that spoke to my kids.  Bravo Ashley Spires for getting me out of my picture book gloom and doom.

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Title:       The Most Magnificent Thing

Author:  Ashley Spires

Target:   Preschool - Grade 2

What this book is about: 
A regular girl and her best friend (a dog) decide one day that they are going to make the most magnificent thing.  They gather supplies, they pound and they measure and they create …. something that is all wrong!  They try again and still it is not working.  As the girl gets madder and madder she becomes frustrated and careless.  After she hurts her finger she decides to take a break.  Once she comes back to the project with fresh eyes, she creates something that is not quite perfect … but it is just what she wanted.

Why I love this book: 
I always think that the best picture books touch on elements of human nature that we all share with humor and understanding.   This book is no exception.  I could see everyone of my kids (and even me) as they struggle with failure.  So often adults are tempted to swoop in to help a struggling child, or the child simply gives up when the going gets tough … but there is so much value in working through the frustration and this book celebrates that.

Spires so successfully delivers the humor in this story with her artwork that includes eye rolls and glares, as well as the text where she plays the straight man to her fabulous graphics.

What makes this book work is that Spires doesn’t cheat.  She takes on the creative process which is difficult and where success doesn’t always come easily.  She doesn’t shy away from the anger or even the temper tantrum!  Even the ending where the final product is not quite perfect, but perfect enough is perfection.

Who this book is for: 
Great for all kids.  A wonderful book to help them navigate the disappointment when what they imagine in their head is not what comes out of their hands.  Also, Spires tells the story with just enough humor to make us willing to see ourselves.

This book also reminded me of Rosie Revere Engineer, so if your child like that one, this one should also be a hit.

Final thoughts: 
This book is certainly a magnificent thing!

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