Sunday, March 9, 2014

Hi! Fly Guy

My son is a 6-year-old emerging reader.  I think this is one of the most difficult stages for picking books.  Since reading is still a lot of work, it is important that I find books that he is excited to read and that are at the right reading level for him.

Tedd Arnold's Fly Guy series has been a great find for us. One, it is a series! I found not just one book he likes but a whole series, hooray!  And he loves them.  They are funny and have just the right amount of gross (like getting stuck in a smelly trash can) humor for him to be excited about.
They also have a great word/page ratio for him.  I would say these are not at the level of a brand new reader but a little more experienced beginner reader.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The One and Only Ivan

Katherine Applegate's The One and Only Ivan has been on my to-read list for quite some time.  I picked it up at the library for my daughter to read and soon found myself on the couch engrossed in the book.

It tells the story of Ivan, a gorilla, who lives at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade with his friends Stella, an old elephant, and Bob, the stray dog.  It is a stark existence but Ivan is happy, and can't really, or chooses not to, remember his life before.  But when a new baby elephant, Ruby, comes to live with them Ivan is forced to view his home and family in a new light.

The chapters are short and there is a lot of white space on all of the pages.  I feel like the emptiness on the page reflects that found at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall.

What I love about this book is that the Applegate presents a story that is filled with love and loss, and a search for home and family in such a way that is accessible to its intended audience - 8 - 12 year olds.  My 8-year-old daughter read it after me and really enjoyed it, although she found it sad, and I think it forced her to think about some of these bigger life issues in a way that was manageable, and enjoyable, for her.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Code Name Verity

The New Year.  That time when all of us resolve to do more, be more and complete more.  I have resolved to be better this year in many ways but one of my resolutions is to read more.  And then write about it more.  And so, after a 6 month hiatus, here I am again.

Code Name Verity is one of those books that I heard about over and over again this past year.  It seemed to be a favorite book by many.  So I went into this book with very high expectations.  And I must admit I was a little disappointed.  I liked the book, but it wasn't everything I had hoped it would be.  I listened to the audio version - I don't know if that played a factor in it.

This is a historical fiction book about World War II, but because of the twists and turns it is difficult to discuss without giving spoilers, so I am going to copy the description of it from IndieBound:

Oct. 11th, 1943-A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it's barely begun.

When "Verity" is arrested by the Gestapo, she's sure she doesn't stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she's living a spy's worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.

As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage, failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy? 

The book is very interesting.  I really liked the characters and it has an interesting story line.  The plot moved very slow for me though.  It was also filled with a lot of flying and plane details, which were interesting, but I think the amount of them is what helped to slow down the story.  I would definitely recommend this book, but perhaps not as heartily as it was recommended to me.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes

This is a book I love.  We have had Ten Little Finger and Ten Little Toes for some time, but as my 2-year-old pulled it out tonight for her bedtime story, I was reminded again at its wonderful simplicity. It is a combined effort by author Mem Fox and illustrator Helen Oxenbury - so you know it will be fantastic.

The story begins:  “There was one little baby who was born far away. And another who was born on the very next day. And both of these babies, as everyone knows, had ten little fingers and ten little toes.”

The book continues to introduce children, born all over the world, some with sneezes and chills and others wrapped in eiderdowns, but all of the children "had ten little fingers and ten little toes.”   This simple refrain points out the common in all of us.  

The illustrations match the simplicity of the text.  Drawn in pencil and watercolor the images are large and uncluttered surrounded by a lot of white space on the page.  Babies are introduced in pairs and as the story progresses the babies continue on to meet the others - each one as huggable as the next.  

We have the full size board book version of this book and love it.  Whether you are looking for a good book to add to your young child collection or a gift for an upcoming baby shower - this is a book you will not be sad to have or give. 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Look! Another Book!

I’ve decided that May is the new January for me this year.  Or perhaps it is the promise of spring and warm weather ahead, but we finally seem to be crawling out of a winter filled with the usual sickness and stuck indoors-ness.  And I am ready. I am ready to de-clutter my house, paint my walls a new color, plant spring flowers and share my favorite books.  So welcome back.  Here’s to a great (new) start to the year.  Welcome Spring.

One book that has been pulled off the shelves time and time again this winter is Bob Staake’s new book, Look! Another Book!  It is everything you loved about Look! A Book! but with new pictures to peruse and lists to find. The colors are bright and the quirky, creative illustrations fill every corner of space – telling their own mini stories throughout the book. 

My 5-year-old son LOVES this book.  It always makes his stack of books to study during quiet time. He is a reader in progress so he needs help with the lists – but can spend hours flipping from page to page in search of just one more robot.  Or, by himself, he finds everything that makes him laugh on the page.  And trust me, there is a lot to find.  

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Starry River of the Sky

The month of December is quickly passing and somehow Christmas is just around the corner.  If you are like me you are frantically finishing up the last loose ends of shopping and so I thought I would post about one of our latest reads in case the last thing on your list is a great book.  Starry River of the Sky is Grace Lin's latest book and is considered a companion novel to Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.

Starry River of the Sky features Rendi a young boy who has run away from home and is working as a helping hand at the inn in the Village of Clear Sky.  It is a village where nothing is quite right.  Master Chao, the innkeeper, and Widow Yang are always fighting, Peiyi and Rendi don't get along and her brother is gone to who knows where.  Mr. Shan is a permanent guest at the inn who appears clueless and forgetful but every so often makes a comment that makes Rendi question how crazy he really is.  And the moon.  It is missing. But only Rendi seems to notice its absence and the loud crying that comes every night.

But one day Madame Chang comes to stay as a guest at the inn and with her arrival begins the telling of enchanting tales.  The stories are craftily woven throughout the book, each bearing significance in the greater story and the unraveling of the conclusion.  And for the readers of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, some of the tales will ring familiar.

Grace Lin's lyrical writing creates a magical story that left my kids begging for "just one more" chapter each night.  And the complexity of plot combined with the beautiful writing made me more than happy to oblige.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

For the past month and a half our nights have been filled with Grace Lin's Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.  It was published in 2009 and was a Newbery Honor recipient. Our local librarian recommended it as a great book for my seven-year-old so we read it aloud one (or two, or three or more) chapter a night. My five-year-old came in and out of listening - but in the end both really loved this book.

Minli lives at the foot of Fruitless Mountain in a small shack with her Ma and Ba.  Her life is filled with hard work, sparse rice and nightly folktale stories by her Ba.  When Minli hears the story of the Old Man of the Moon, who knows the answers to life's most important questions, she decides to leave in the middle of the night to seek him out and change her fortune.

The story follows her journey to meet the Old Man of the Moon and the many adventures she encounters.  Along the way she meets Dragon, who can not fly and has only ever been called Dragon.  He decides to join Minli and ask the Old Man of the Moon to help him fly.  Along the way they encounter a monkey filled jungle, a meeting with the King, and a ferocious green tiger, among other things.

This story is well-written and magical.  I love the folktales that are intertwined throughout the main story.  Each story adds to the mystique of the novel as well as being an important part of the final woven tale.  My daughter fell in love with this story and with Grace Lin as an author.  She is on a quest to read all things Grace Lin and whenever she hears a big, seemingly unanswerable, question she says, "That is a question for the Old Man of the Moon."