Book of a Thousand Days

Book of a Thousand DaysBook of a Thousand DaysBook of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale by Shannon Hale

Retellings of fairy tales may be quite common, but a retelling of the Maid Maleen fairy tale? Not so common. It’s probably just as well that that fairy tale itself isn’t commonly known, since Hale sticks close to the original in many plot points. Since I definitely was NOT familiar with that tale it allowed me to still be somewhat surprised by certain plot twists.

An age range for this is a bit tough to peg – there are very brutal events, although most take place off stage, and the ones that take place in the book itself aren’t detailed. There are threats of rape, but readers who are unaware of that horror won’t catch the reference, as it’s only hinted at and not stated explicitly. The main character faces starvation, torture, and even death – this is not a book I’d blithely hand over to someone without knowing them and their sensitivities.

And yet, that makes it sound harsher than it really reads, and likely would keep anyone from voluntarily picking it up, which would be a shame. Yes, there are difficult events in it, but the book retains a wonderful sense of hope throughout it. Hale does an amazing job of somehow not making the book feel too dark or heavy despite some of the topics. The setting is a great adaptation to the original tale – I loved the Mongolian customs that are described, and how one of them plays a pivotal role in the overall story (not saying more as I’m skirting a spoiler there). I adored the main character and was sad to come to the end of the book.

There are scattered illustrations throughout the text, and they add to the story’s charm yet also make it feel targeted more towards younger teens or tweens. I know, I just referred to the book’s charm after that earlier paragraph; seems unlikely and yet it does have a great deal of charm.

Finally, the book is told in journal entries, so that was another plus for it as far as I’m concerned. Am I extra swayed in a book’s favor when it’s an epistolary novel? Quite likely. 🙂 [Read more…]

What the Kids are Reading (in February 2015)

Mommy Is a Soft Warm KissMommy Is a Soft, Warm KissMommy Is a Soft, Warm Kiss by Rhonda Gowler Greene, illustrated by Maggie Smith by Rhonda Gowler Greene, illustrated by Maggie Smith

Picked out by my daugher, and we read it every. day. until it “had” to go back to the library. Had to, because I didn’t try to renew it as I was tired of reading it. My love for it is not as strong as my daughter’s, who has already stated that she wants to get it again.

Pink Cupcake MagicPink Cupcake MagicPink Cupcake Magic by Katherine Tegen, illustrated by Kristin Verner by Katherine Tegen, illustrated by Kristin Verner

Also picked out my daughter (if there is a pink cover, she grabs it). Another one that will be going back to the library without being renewed. This one does keep her brother more entertained however, because of CUPCAKES!! And the big brother getting his reward at the end. 😉

CorduroyCorduroyCorduroy by Don Freeman by Don Freeman

Somehow we’d never read this classic before. Now we have, and both kids liked it. Neither of them requested it again though.

Sir Cumference and the First Round TableSir Cumference and the First Round TableSir Cumference and the First Round Table (A Math Adventure) by Cindy Neuschwander, illustrated by Wayne Geehan and Sir Cumference and the Dragon of PiSir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi (A Math Adventure) by Cindy Neuschwander, illustrated by Wayne Geehan by Cindy Neuschwander, illustrated by Wayne Geehan

I get a kick out of these math-themed books. The illustrations are wonderful too!

Green Lantern vs. the Meteor MonsterGreen Lantern vs. the Meteor Monster!Green Lantern vs. the Meteor Monster! (DC Super Friends)

This one is bad, but unfortunately it was one my son picked out. He does love his superheroes! I don’t mind the superhero books so much when he’s the one reading them, but this one isn’t one he can manage. It’ll go back to the library next time, as I hid it back into the library bag after only one reading – it’s just that bad.

Bedtime MathBedtime Math: A Fun Excuse to Stay Up LateBedtime Math: A Fun Excuse to Stay Up Late (Bedtime Math Series) by Laura Overdeck, illustrated by Jim Paillot by Laura Overdeck, illustrated by Jim Paillot

This is a work in progress, and my son loves it! We don’t read it at bedtime though. I like how it’s structured, and how there are different levels of problems – one of the levels always works for my son. Sometimes it’s the “wee ones” and sometimes it’s the next level up, but it’s fun.

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Superhero Fun with Early Readers

Superman Escape from the Phantom ZoneMy son is trucking right along learning how to read, but he still can’t just pick up any book and get through it.

This month, he’s gotten two superhero-themed readers to tackle. One from the library, and one was a stocking stuffer from Grandma. That made him *very* excited. They were an excellent balance between readability and high interest.

Grandma gave him Superman: Escape from the Phantom ZoneSuperman Classic: Escape from the Phantom Zone: I Can Read Level 2 (I Can Read Book 2), and it was a great gift for him. It’s right at his reading level (with a bit of help for a couple of words in the text, but most of it he could handle independently), and he loves Superman and Batman, so he was highly motivated to read it all.

Batman Dawn of the Dynamic DuoThe library book he’s read is Batman: Dawn of the Dynamic DuoBatman Classic: Dawn of the Dynamic Duo: I Can Read Level 2 (I Can Read Book 2), another level 2 book and another one that’s ideal for him. Not that challenging, but it gives him confidence as he reads, which I think is a good thing. Another one that was a big hit because, well, it’s Batman!

These aren’t the sorts of books I want him to spend all of his time reading, but he gets a lot of higher quality books as well and will continue to do so. These worked well as motivation and just fun reading time. I’m fortunate that my library has so many early readers that I’ll be able to get lots of variety, in addition to the ones we own through his school items.

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The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer Holm

The Fourteenth GoldfishThe Fourteenth GoldfishThe Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer Holm by Jennifer Holm

A new book by an author I’ve really enjoyed in the past (her title Our Only May Amelia is so good, and Penny from HeavenPenny from Heaven by Jennifer L. Holm may be even better) – I was excited to try this one! And happily, Holm did not disappoint. Ellie is an appealing character and despite the unlikely plot it all ends up seeming mostly believable, if you can just accept the premise for the story. Roll with it, in other words.

It touches on a lot of different topics, which adds to the appeal – science, multi-generational households, family, death, finding your life’s passion, ethics, some history – they’re all here. Even fashion makes an appearance, as does the life expectancy of goldfish. It’s amazingly readable and accessible despite the topics that could have made for a much heavier tone.

I especially liked how the book would lend itself to discussions with my kids (once they get older; they’re too young for the depth this one offers right now.) It’s very entertaining, but it’s also thought-provoking in a way I wasn’t expecting from the cute cover. The pacing is excellent, and the short chapters would help it to work well as a readaloud.

Enthusiastically recommended!

Publisher’s Description:
Galileo. Newton. Salk. Oppenheimer.
Science can change the world . . . but can it go too far?

Eleven-year-old Ellie has never liked change. She misses fifth grade. She misses her old best friend. She even misses her dearly departed goldfish. Then one day a strange boy shows up. He’s bossy. He’s cranky. And weirdly enough . . . he looks a lot like Ellie’s grandfather, a scientist who’s always been slightly obsessed with immortality. Could this pimply boy really be Grandpa Melvin? Has he finally found the secret to eternal youth?

Book Details

Title: The Fourteenth GoldfishThe Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer Holm
Author: Jennifer Holm
Category: Juvenile Fiction
My Rating: 4 Stars

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Recent Readaloud: Dinosaur Trouble

Dinosaur TroubleDinosaur TroubleDinosaur Trouble by Dick King-Smith, illustrated by Nick Bruel by Dick King-Smith, illustrated by Nick Bruel

I grabbed this because of the author – Dick King-Smith has written lots of books that I’m seeing listed as good readalouds for younger kids. My son chose to listen to this one instead of his more famous title, BabeBabe: The Gallant Pig by Dick King-Smith, because of the dinosaurs on the cover. DINOSAURS!

My verdict:
It’s not one I’d recommend if you’re new to reading aloud. Or maybe it was just that I don’t know my dinosaur names well enough and so I felt like I was always stumbling over pronunciations. The mom pterodactyl also has an extensive vocabulary, and for some of her dialogue I was also guessing at how to say things. I know what the words mean, but I don’t necessarily know how they’re pronounced.

I’d also caution you depending on your family standards for readalouds. This one talks about poop/pooping a tiny bit, and dinosaurs being killed and eaten. I was a bit caught off guard by the poop talk, and tried to skim over it as my son is just hitting that stage where anything like that is HILARIOUS and I was attempting to fend off an afternoon of giggles and repeating the sentences that made him laugh. The mentions of the dinosaurs being eaten didn’t phase my two, nor did the talk about other dinosaurs being killed by the book’s antagonist: the dreaded T. Rex. Apparently my kids are not especially sensitive. 😉

My other big issue with the book is how the dad pterodactyl is portrayed as so dumb, especially in contrast to the mom who is so smart. Why can’t both of the parents be smart, and let mom skip the snide asides about how dense the big guy is? That all went over my kids heads as well fortunately.

The illustrations are nice and fit the overall feel of the book well. There are lots of them scattered throughout the text – not quite on every page, but close, and my kids enjoyed looking at all of them.

The appropriate age range for this book is hard for me to peg. In many ways I think it’d be better as a reader instead of a readaloud, but it’s not ideal because of some of the vocabulary choices. They’re all defined, but even reading them initially I can see being a challenge for less confident readers. I think it could work for kids ready to move beyond the earliest of chapter books if the content issues aren’t a concern.

And, a big spoiler to the end if your kids are sensitive: Highlight the area below to see the hidden text, but it does give away the ending to the book.

In their attempt to scare the T. Rex so he’ll go away and not be a threat to the young apatosaurus any longer, they end up killing the T. Rex instead of simply frightening him. It’s not glossed over or hinted at either – he’s definitely dead, and the little apotosaurus and pterodactyl know that. My kids were not bothered at all by this, but I can easily see it being an issue for others.

The kids’ verdict:
It was fine. They weren’t crazy about it, but they listened to the end as they wanted to know what would happen. They didn’t ask for me to repeat it after completing it, which they definitely do for books they like more.

[Read more…]

What the Kids are Reading (in January 2015)

Lots of new library books, lots of books that just missed out on being super favorites. We spent a lot of time reading our own books though, so no worries when the library picks aren’t major hits.

The World According to Musk OxThe World According to Musk OxThe World According to Musk Ox by Erin Cabatingan, illustrated by Matthew Myers by Erin Cabatingan, illustrated by Matthew Myers

We love the books A Is for Musk OxA Is for Musk Ox by Erin Cabatingan, illustrated by Matthew Myers, and Musk Ox CountsMusk Ox Counts by Erin Cabatingan, illustrated by Matthew Myers. This is another good one, but some of the humor is over my kids’ heads. (That’s perhaps a good thing, like when the musk ox is getting flirty.) The illustrations are fantastic, and I loved the “hysterical markers” for each continent. Lots of fun!

Naked Mole Rat Gets DressedNaked Mole Rat Gets DressedNaked Mole Rat Gets Dressed by Mo Willems by Mo Willems

Love Williems – I tend to just wander over to his shelf at the library and grab anything we haven’t already read. This one wasn’t one of our favorites however, and it went back to the library without regrets. I doubt we’ll borrow it again.

HogwashHogwash!Hogwash! by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jim McMullan by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jim McMullan

I’ve become a huge Karma Wilson fan, but like with the Willems title mentioned above, this wasn’t our favorite from her.

Bear Says ThanksBear Says ThanksBear Says Thanks (The Bear Books) by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman

See above, about Karma Wilson. This one is a little late for Thanksgiving, but that’s ok – it’s still a great book.

DragonsDragons (Mythical Creatures)Dragons (Mythical Creatures) by Charlotte Guillain by Charlotte Guillain

My daughter requested a book on dragons, as we drove in to the library. I had no time to go searching for picture books featuring dragons, so instead I went to the nonfiction area. Yes, nonfiction about dragons – it does exist!
For general interest though, I think she’d have preferred a regular picture book. This one didn’t keep her attention.

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What the Kids are Reading (in December 2014)

No surprise, we’ve been reading lots of Christmas books. We have managed to read a few other titles as well though, besides the holiday-themed ones. I already mentioned some of the books in our literary advent, but two of the ones that have been the biggest hits I didn’t mention. So I’ll do that here. 🙂

Mortimer's Christmas MangerMortimer’s Christmas MangerMortimer's Christmas Manger by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman

I showed this one on Instagram, because I was so pleasantly surprised by it – my kids loved it, and it had a lot more depth than I thought it was going to have based on the cover. I got it from the library, but I think I need to add it to our collection.

Bear Stays up for ChristmasBear Stays Up for ChristmasBear Stays Up for Christmas (The Bear Books) by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman

Another library book, another one I think we need to get for ourselves. Super cute, and both kids loved it.

PinkaliciousPinkalicious: The Pinkamazing Storybook CollectionPinkalicious: The Pinkamazing Storybook Collection by Victoria Kann by Victoria Kann

My daughter picked this one out, entirely based on the cover. Kudos to the artist – you know how to appeal to my girl! While I got a little tired of the made-up “pink” words in the text, overall it didn’t bother me anywhere near as much as I feared it might. Most of the books my kids select based on the covers don’t live up to even my low expectations, so yay for one that does. That’s not really saying much though, and it’s not one I recommend, or will miss when it goes back to the library. 🙂

0-439-45948-610 Fat Turkeys10 Fat Turkeys by Tony Johnston, illustrated by Rich Deas by Tony Johnston, illustrated by Rich Deas

My son’s pick. A couple of the rhymes were clunky, but both kids liked counting down along with the story, and read it happily multiple times before I got tired of it and stashed it back into the library bag for our next trip. Yes, I do that.

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What the Kids are Reading (in November 2014)

Recently it’s been almost all about the science books and/or Dr. Seuss for our library book reading. We still repeat our favorites that we own, but for new material we’ve had a heavy rotation of:

I Can Name 50 Trees TodayI Can Name 50 Trees Today!I Can Name 50 Trees Today!: All About Trees (Cat in the Hat's Learning Library) by Bonnie Worth, illustrated by Aristides Ruiz and Joe Mathieu by Bonnie Worth, illustrated by Aristides Ruiz and Joe Mathieu.

A Cat in the Hat Learning Library Title, and I’ll be looking for more of them. It’s got lots of info, but in a fun style that keeps the kids listening, and keeps me reading happily.

Why Oh Why Are Deserts DryWhy Oh Why Are Deserts Dry?Why Oh Why Are Deserts Dry?: All About Deserts (Cat in the Hat's Learning Library) by Tish Rabe, illustrated by Aristides Ruiz and Joe Mathieu by Tish Rabe, illustrated by Aristides Ruiz and Joe Mathieu

Another Cat in the Hat Learning Library book. This series has been a good discovery for us, and I’m thrilled to see how many titles have been published (and are available through our library). They seem perfect for G’s age (5) and interest level as well.

The Wild Leaf RideThe Wild Leaf RideThe Wild Leaf Ride (Magic School Bus, Scholastic Reader, Level 2) by Judith Stamper, illustrated by Carolyn Bracken by Judith Stamper, illustrated by Carolyn Bracken.

Both kids love this one, which is part of The Magic School Bus series. I kind of hate it – after a half dozen times through it I was ready to hide it until it could go back. Fortunately it’s an early reader type book, and my son isn’t far away from being able to read it himself. I’ll look for another one in the series after he gets a bit farther along in his reading lessons and see if he can handle it all on his own, so I don’t have to repeat these titles.

Hop on PopHop on Pop (I Can Read It All By Myself)Hop on Pop  (I Can Read It All By Myself) by Dr Seuss by Dr Seuss.

Read by G with very minimal help (as in, only a couple of words – mother/father/sister/brother tripped him up, and maybe something else I’m forgetting).

We did also read two picture books:
Pumpkin BabyPumpkin BabyPumpkin Baby by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Susan Mitchell by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Susan Mitchell

Usually I like Yolen’s books, but didn’t care for this one, and I whisked it away before the kids could ask for it repeatedly. The language wasn’t as easy to read aloud as it typically is for her works.

What's in the Egg Little PipWhat’s in the Egg, Little Pip?What's in the Egg, Little Pip? by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman

I didn’t realize what either of the picture book titles were about when I brought them home, and was amused that they both dealt with new babies coming into the family and the big sister’s feelings about that. How appropriate for us right now, although I could have used the Little Pip title even earlier – this one would work during a pregnancy that might be keeping mom from playing in the same ways as before. Great illustrations and very readable – I’ll look for more Little Pip titles, and other books by the author.

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What the Kids are Reading (in October 2014)

Not a lot of new-to-us books recently; most of the books we’ve been reading have been old favorites. We did still manage a few new titles though:

Moonshot The Flight of Apollo 11Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 by Brian Floca by Brian Floca

I thought G would be more into this than he was – he has loved some of Floca’s other books, and he loves outer space related titles, but this one wasn’t a favorite. It’s probably just a bit too old for him, so I’ll give it another try at a later date.

Tweak TweakTweak TweakTweak Tweak by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier

H especially loves this one, but G doesn’t mind listening to it as well. It’s very cute, with charming illustrations. I don’t think it’ll be one that H continues to ask for again and again, but that just makes it a perfect library book.

Hana in the Time of the TulipsHana in the Time of the TulipsHana in the Time of the Tulips by Deborah Noyes, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline by Deborah Noyes, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline

The illustrations are beautiful, but the storyline doesn’t keep their interest. I think it’d be a better choice for older kids, even if it is a picture book.

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What the Kids are Reading (in July 2014)

AlmostAlmostAlmost by Richard Torrey by Richard Torrey
Especially well-timed as we first read it days before my son’s birthday. So even though the age was off by a year, it still connected with him in a bigger way than I expected.

Randy Riley's Really Big HitRandy Riley’s Really Big HitRandy Riley's Really Big Hit by Chris Van Dusen by Chris Van Dusen
Baseball + outer space + robots = the perfect book for my boy. At least this month. We have read it countless times already. One of the unexpectedly fun parts was that Randy Riley has a telescope, and every time we read the book G would sigh “I wish I had a telescope.” And then it was his birthday and he got a telescope. 🙂

Sleep Like a TigerSleep Like a TigerSleep Like a Tiger (Caldecott Medal - Honors Winning Title) by Mary Logue, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski by Mary Logue, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski

H loves this one especially, and asks for it to be read every time we sit down on the couch together.

This is Not My HatThis Is Not My HatThis Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen by Jon Klassen

Makes them both laugh, and they love the expressions on the big fish.

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