Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Summer Reading Is Just Around the Corner

Spring is the time to prepare yourself for Summer reading. 

Every year in late May bookstores put out special tables filled with Summer reading for students of all ages. As parents, we pile the books on knowing that our children are required to read them. And many kids groan at the process. Don't wait until school is out. Summer reading is like going to the beach. You have to get ready for it. Pick up some titles this Spring to prime your child's brain, get those neuron's firing and prepare them for a good summer read.

The Homework Strike
By Greg Pincus
Best For: Ages 8 - 12
          Gregory K is back in a new book. When last we heard from Gregory he was struggling with math and hoping to go to author camp for the summer. He was dealing with friends and family while discovering how the Fibonacci sequence could inspire a new style of poetry. This time around Gregory is trudging through middle school, trying to find his place in the world and spending all his time on way too much homework. When Gregory finds his voice and begins expressing civil disobedience, he hopes to change his homework situation. One thing leads to another and he starts a movement. Middle-grade readers will explore civic involvement, middle school relationships, the power of media and plenty of humor.
What’s good: Pincus expertly delivers character development and humor.
What’s bad: Driven by dialogue and character development, the pacing has moments of fits and starts.

The Secret Keepers
By Trenton Lee Stewart
Best For: Ages 10 – 13
          What would you do if you found a magic watch that made you invisible? All Reuben Pedley wants is a better life for himself and his mom. So when he finds a watch that gives him the power of invisibility he thinks his dreams are about to come true. Then he realizes that the watch comes with a lot of questions, a nefarious bad guy who also wants it, new friends and a big, dangerous mystery. For Reuben discovering the watch might actually be a nightmare. You'll have to read The Secret Keepers and make your own decision. Like Stewart's "Benedict Society" series, this tale is full of twists, turns, and a little magic.
What’s good: An interesting mystery that keeps you guessing.
What’s bad: The pacing is uneven with the beginning being very slow.

Jasper and the Riddle of Riley's Mine
By Caroline Star Rose
Best For: Ages 10 – 14
          It's 1897 and gold has been discovered in the Yukon. Sixteen-year-old Mel and his younger brother Jasper escape their alcoholic father and strike out for Alaska hoping to strike it rich. It's not that easy, of course. Jasper stows away on a steamer to keep up with his brother. While aboard the ship, Jasper hears a rumor about the lost mine of One-Eyed Riley and clues to its location. If Jasper and Mel can solve the mysterious clues they could stake claim to the mine and riches beyond their dreams. Along the way, they will have to survive villains, winter, and the Yukon wilderness. Full of mystery, danger, and action this tale will enthrall anyone who dreams of striking it rich.
What’s good: Warm characters make it easy to get emotionally invested.
What’s bad: A little too much melodrama to action ratio for younger readers.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Farm Friends

Spring brings new titles full of farm animals and hi-jinks.

Ah, the sweet smell of – ah... AH-CHOO – flowers. Sorry. Spring is in the air and the Bradford Pear Trees are in full bloom. If you head to the bookstore to escape your allergies, you are sure to see shelves filled with stories about animals. I've picked a few to highlight in posts for the next week. Enjoy.

The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet!
By Carmen Agra Deedy
Illustrated by Eugene Yelchin
Best For: Ages 4 – 8
          Be careful what you wish for. La Paz is a very happy and very loud village. In fact, there is so much noise the townspeople decide that some peace and quiet would be nice. So they elect a new mayor that promises change. And change is what they get. Soon, a little peace and quiet turns into laws prohibiting all noise. Seven years later a vibrant rooster enters the city and refuses to quit singing his song. The mayor takes the rooster’s house, food, and family but the rooster refuses to quit.
Told in the style of classic folk tales, The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet! illustrates the idea that one voice can make a difference. The illustrations are bright and vibrant, adding a wellspring of energy to the tale. Although teachers may not want to emphasize the end notes that glorify individuals who won’t be quiet, this book is good for read-aloud story time.
What’s good: High energy folk tale with vibrant illustrations.
What’s bad: Young children may misunderstand the message about speaking out.

Duck on a Tractor
By David Shannon
Best For: Ages 4 - 8

          A bike just isn’t enough for Duck anymore – not after he sees a massive red tractor. It’s time to go to town on the tractor. All of Duck’s farmyard friends pile on top. The townsfolk are baffled by the sight. Wouldn’t you be if you saw a slew of farm animals riding a tractor down Main Street? Duck on a Tractor is a tour de force of Shannon’s painterly illustration style. He uses exaggerated facial expressions for animals and humans alike, and throws in aggressive amounts of color to accentuate the story’s fun and chaos. The down home language in the text keeps the story moving nicely and begs to be read aloud. Like Duck on a Bike, Shannon delivers with this raucous new Duck tale.
What’s good: Energetic humor with plenty to see in every illustration.
What’s bad: Maybe a little too similar to Duck on a Bike.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Everything Is New Again

The new year brings tales of new beginnings and adventure.

The Littlest Family’s Big Day
By Emily Winfield Martin
Best For: Ages 3 - 7
The world is full of wonder – all you have to do is wander to discover it. When a family of tiny bears moves into their new tree in a big wooded forest they decide to take a “wander” through the new neighborhood. It turns into a magical adventure filled with new friends, fairies, gnomes, and benevolent creatures galore. The text is alliterative and lyrical, using creative word choices to bolster the pastoral illustrations. “Wander” instead of adventure is a prime example that connotes a meandering adventure of wonder. This is a wonderful choice for classroom story time or family reading before bedtime. 
What’s good: Detailed illustrations that peacefully encourage wonder.
What’s bad: Cynics will question why the giant owl doesn’t eat the littlest family.

Who Wants A Tortoise?
By Dave Keane
Illustrated by: K.G. Campbell
Best For: Ages 4 - 8
After begging for a puppy for her birthday, a young girl is disappointed to receive a tortoise instead. Dogs do so much – pant, howl, bark – and tortoises don’t. All they do is “hiss as they pull their heads in.” A tortoise is not at all what she wanted. Slowly and surely the little girl comes to learn about her new pet and the more she learns the more she becomes emotionally attached. She even takes her tortoise to “sharing day” at school. When the little girl loses her tortoise that the reader sees just how much the tortoise means to her. Don’t worry. It all ends well.

Campbell’s watercolor and colored pencil illustrations capture the little girl's many moods with a delicate and deft touch. The illustrations are lively and engaging yet offer a calming influence that makes this a good book for group story time or bedtime reading. 
What’s good: Great message about finding the good in your situation
What’s bad: Not much. It’s a charming story.

Marvin and the Moths
By Matthew Holm and Jonathan Follet
Best For: Ages 8 - 12
Middle school is tough. When you split your pants on the first day of class it doesn’t get any easier. Marvin, the titular, character also has to deal with an impending baby brother. He feels that his life is in turmoil. Then Marvin’s parents move him upstairs to the unfinished attic to make room for his little brother. That's when Marvin wakes up to find three very large and talkative moths in his new attic room. As the story progresses a giant Shakespeare-quoting spider harasses the town and it’s up to Marvin to save the day.
Of course, humor ensues.
What’s good: Loaded with humor and excitement.
What’s bad: Marvin is not very likable.