Monday, January 16, 2017

Five Children - and the sequel

Once a girl walked out of her public library with a book about five children.  The children dug up a prehistoric sand fairy who could grant them wishes.  It was rather impolite, snobby and self-important.  And It's magic had some bugs that never quite got worked out.  When the girl became a Mom, she read that book and its two sequels to her child.  Wonderful!  E. Nesbit was a favorite author for them both.
This is the copy I own.  It is certainly an odd looking fairy.

Half a century late, someone else wrote a book about those five children and that strange fairy.  Kate Saunders' Five Children on the Western Front brings us up to date with the Pemberton children.  Cyril is no longer a child.  At the start of the book, he is an officer awaiting his marching orders in the Great War.  Robert is at Cambridge, studying writing, of course.  Anthea is studying art.  Jane is at the Girl's high school.  The Lamb, (nee Hilary, much to his disgruntlement) is at Poplar school.  And Edie, an addition to the family, is at the local village school.  It is the very beginning of WWI.

The Lamb and Edie dig up the Psammyead and It is not happy at all.  Not at all.  The Pembertons refer to the Psammyead as "he" and so shall I.

When someone takes it upon themselves to write sequels to well-loved novels, I worry.  With relief, I'm glad to say that Saunders does "a bit of all right" with this book.  The Psammyead's magic is unstable in this story.  The world is unstable, too.  Somewhere close to the half way mark, we learn that the Psammyead has to make amends for his past.  And he does by helping people who are in similar circumstances to the "slaves" that he punished thousands of years before.

Oh my, I have to stop writing about this book now.  Expect hi-jinks.  Expect romance.  Expect social commentary and Briticisms.  Expect battle scenes and hospitals. And, if you loved the other books about the Pembertons, expect melancholy.  NOTE: Don't read the acknowledgements until AFTER you read the book.  'Nuff said.  (Where are my tissues?)

Friday, January 13, 2017

Princess and Caveman - Heroes!

I have a new favorite princess, Harriet the Invincible.  She is sturdy.  She is stalwart.  She is strong!  She is small and slow-ish.  She is a HAMSTER!! And she rides a battle quail.  I'm in awe.
I just read Ratpunzel, which is the third book in the series. Now I have to get the first two and find out why Harriet was working at a slight disadvantage in Book 3. 

The reading level is about grade 4 but the interest level is higher, through grade 7.  Harriet will appeal to kids who like a lot of action of the more-fun-than-fierce kind.  The dialogue is clever and punny and sometimes appears in speech bubbles.  That's important.  Those little illustrations move the action forward so don't just skip them.

In Ratpunzel,  Harriet's friend Wilbur, needs help in rescuing his pet hydra's kidnapped egg.  The plot gets a bit scrambled but, not to worry.  Harriet's excellent sword wielding skills and warrior instincts keep things moving along.  There's a tower, a princess-to-be-rescued, a witch, hidden passages and spells and slapstick swordplay until the satisfying conclusion.  

Then there's Lug.  He is a prehistoric hero, saving his clan from imprisonment and destruction, one ice age worry at a time.  In the second book in the series, Lug: Blast from the North by David Zeltser, Lug and his friends rescue a stranger who lives on a quickly moving glacier.  He seems soooo friendly.  Lug doesn't warm up to Blast as quickly as his friends do.  (See what I did there?) And Lug is right!  BTW, Lug has a sword, too, but his is made of ice! 

This series will appeal to the same set of readers.  The abundance of black and white illustrations, silly dialogue, middle school age insecurities and jealousies, and treachery cleverly deflected should keep young adventure seekers happy.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Secrets - Different and yet the same

Here are three books published in 2016 that have different settings, (although the plots are slightly similar).  However, each main character has a secret.  And all those secrets are the same.  In a later post, I will tell you what the secret is.  Let's see if any of my readers already know.

The Kidnap Plot by Dave Butler.  When Charlie's inventor father is kidnapped by the Anti-Human League, it is up to Charlie and a ragtag band of characters, including a troll and two aviator/thieves to save the day.  This is a stem-punk romp.

The Adventures of Lettie Peppercorn by Sam Gayton and Poly Bernatrene (illustrations).  Before her mother disappeared, she told Lettie to never go outside.  Then a stranger offers to sell Lettie his wonderful new invention - snow.   The stranger also knows where Lettie's mother has gone.
So, armed with this marvelous snow, Lettie heads off to put her family back together.

Rebel Genius by Michael Dante DiMartino  Giacomo is a street urchin with a need to draw, and draw and draw.  But in his country - a land similar to Italy in the Renaissance - art is forbidden.  The Geniuses that aid artists - birds with rare powers - are hunted down and caged.  When Giacomo is attacked by two Lost Souls, a strange explosion of light and energy results in the arrival of a Genius of Giacomo's own - and his induction into a secret group of talented children.  Their benefactor has dangerous plans.  Soon, the children are put in life threatening peril.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Cheap E-Books - sometimes FREE

I subscribe to 3 cheap e-book newsletters that arrive, unbidden, in my inbox every morning.  Most of the books are older and for adults. Newer books show up, as well as books for younger readers.  Every week, you can also download classics for very little money and often for free.  I load up my reader before going on vacation and I have good stuff to read while lounging by the pool. 
I recently downloaded a book by John Bellairs and Brad Strickland, The Drum, the Doll and the Zombie.  

I don't usually read horror, but when I do, I read John Bellairs (or Brad Strickland).

  ANYWAY, here are the three newsletters I mentioned above.

Early Bird Books - gives you the option to purchase the books (usually $2.99 or less - sometimes FREE) from several vendors. 

Bookbub - sells through Barnes & Noble and Google.  Prices hover around $1.

Riffle - several vendors - although sometimes books are only available through Amazon -, low prices and a community as well.   I find more YA books posted on Riffle than on the other sites.

NOTE:  You must buy the featured books on that day.  The books revert to their regular price the following day - usually around $10.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Books of December - New Year's Eve

Soon, my granddaughter will arrive for the Annual New Year's Eve Doesn't-This-Girl-Ever-Fall-Asleep-a-thon.  That means that this is the very last Books of December of 2016.

So what books stayed with me this year?  Well, to be absolutely honest, that question always stymies me.  But here goes.

The Best Man by Richard Peck was a love of a book.  The main character makes it from kindergarten to sixth grade with the same group of kids and his loving parents and his fabulous uncle.  When a student teacher arrives in his Guard uniform, our narrator has a new favorite person.  And so does his uncle.  How our hero helps these two men get - and stay - together is told in a matter-of-fact and affectionate manner.  Peck manages to hit some of the key memes for middle grade fiction - acceptance, bullying, tattling, family problems - and love.  Yep.  I loved this book.

The Extraordinary Journey of Clockwork Charlie: The Kidnap Plot by Dave Butler.  This one sticks in the brain.  The reader can figure out Charlie's secret as he searches for his kidnapped father.  The steam punk setting, the evil villains, the action and Charlie's faithful band of friends add up to a great adventure.

The Evil Wizard Smallbone by Delia Sherman.  This one buzzed around my head for several days after I read it.  I liked the Maine setting, the "captured" runaway, and the oddly similar villagers.  Then, the wolves showed up and things got a little hairy.  (See what I did there?)

 All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor.  Perry was born in a prison and that prison is his home.  But when the new DA decides that Perry needs a "real" family, Perry has to leave the only family he knows.  The move gives him a chance to solve the mystery of how his mother ended up in jail in the first place.  L-O-V-E-D this book.

Framed!  (T.O.A.S.T Mystery #1) by James Ponti.  This mildly unbelievable romp has a 12 year old boy and his new neighbor -(he's new in town.  She's been there awhile.) - helping the FBI thwart art thieves by using the Theory Of All Small Things.  The mystery is well-plotted and the sleuthing is fun.  I am looking forward to the next T.O.A.S.T. mystery.

BTW, she DOES fall asleep - just in time for me to finish my last Books of December post in December.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Books of December - Books for Kids who "Don't Like Reading"

A friend asked me about books for her sixth grader who'd rather play sports than read.  He's a good reader, just not an avid reader.

I finally put together a list.  It is NO WAY COMPLETE.  I didn't even touch fantasy (Percy Jackson, The Ranger's Apprentice, Harry Potter) horror or adventure.  I barely touched mystery.  But, here it is, my incomplete list of authors (and some of their books) for kids that don't like to read.

Dear L,
   I am so sorry that it took me so long to get this list to you.  I will start with the names of sports authors that middle school boys like.  I linked to the author's home pages below.
Mike Lupica - He writes with boy and girl main characters - mostly boys.  The books frequently address family, friendship, responsibility, and sportsmanship issues. 
Kwame Alexander - a poet who writes in a verse style.  Don't worry.  His books read like novels and move very, very quickly with lots of sports action.  His books Crossover and Booked,  have been winning awards all over the place.  

Jason Reynolds - I particularly like his novel Ghost which centers on track and field.  His characters are likable and real. 
Robert Lipsyte - He's been around for awhile.  His books appeal to middle school and teens.  He makes it to almost every Boys Read booklist.
Fred Bowen - is a sports columnist for the Washington Post.  Check out his website.
Carl Deuker's books are for high school kids but they are so popular.  Look at one before giving them to your middle schooler, though.  They may include stuff that is meant for older readers.
John Feinstein books never stay on the shelf.  He writes for teens mostly but his books are very popular.
Josh Berk - the director of the Bethlehem Area Public Library, has written two GREAT books about baseball in middle school, Strike Three You're Dead and Say it Ain't So . I am seriously hoping he writes another book in this series.

Getting active kids to read has inspired book series and organization such as Boys  Check out their lists.  The lists include non-fiction and fiction titles.
Jon Scieszka started a whole movement with Guys Read, including books of short stories written by some of the best writers in children's lit.  Check out the Guys Read website.

Gordon Korman - his books are funny and move quickly.  A few center on sports and almost all of his main characters are boys (or animals) who are more interested in messing around than in reading or schoolwork.  Check out The Chicken Doesn't Skate for a fun book with lots of hockey action.
Gary Paulsen - Paulsen writes about the great outdoors. Check the age range because Paulsen writes for teens as well.  It doesn't look like he has a separate Paulsen only website, so I linked to his Wikipedia article.  Your son probably knows all about Hatchet.  It's a survival story and it's awesome.
Carl Hiaasen - writes for the Miami Herald and mostly writes for adults but his book, Hoot, written for young teens has been made into a movie.
Louis Sachar has written some of the weirdest books ever.  His books deal with the emotions of competition and survival in the social life of middle schoolers and teens.  His latest, Fuzzy Mud, received great reviews.
Tom Angleberger 's books all deal with middle school.  No sports here but the books are quick reads and very funny.
Varian Johnson - I just finished the second book in his Jackson Greene series, To Catch a Cheat.  Jackson Greene is a middle school con man who is trying to go straight.  His schemes are incredible!
I hope this gives you a place to start.  Ask the librarians at the public library.  I am sure they know the books that middle school kids are asking for - beyond The Wimpy Kid and Big Nate (both a little too young for your son, I think.)
Don't forget to ask about non-fiction as well.  Some kids don't like to read "made up" stories.
Good luck.  And Happy New Year!
Hey, it's December and this post is about books - Books of December works, right?

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Books of December - Gifts

I have several siblings (several- more than three, less than a dozen).  For years, I gave every sibling a Christmas present.  Then, I gave every sibling and his or her significant other a Christmas present.  THEN, I gave every sibling, their S-O and their CHILDREN individual Christmas presents.  THEN, I gave each family a box of Christmas presents.  Finally, I sent some of my siblings a “family” Christmas present.   Now, they are lucky to get a greeting card from me.  This is the evolution of my family gift-giving.
( I did not expect nor did I often receive presents in return. Sometimes I was happily surprised.  I just like giving gifts.)

A lot of these gifts were homemade.  Because homemade gifts are super, right?  Well, they are, if they come from my sisters, who all take great pride in crafting the most delightfully sewn, knitted, quilted items.  I go for the Big Effect, and that sometimes means that my gifts fall apart 24 hours after they are unpacked.  Still, it’s the thought.... Or, is it? (My food gifts are usually awesome!)

A gift can be as small as a button, as mysterious as an empty box, as ephemeral as a kiss. 

Books about gift-giving and generosity that I love.

The Best Christmas Ever by Chih-Yuan Chen.  I will mention this book every Christmas season in some form or other, because I love it so much.  I love the brown paper feel of the illustrations.  I love the feeling of winter, darkness, and struggling hope.  I love its simplicity.  And I love the joyous resolution.  The Bear family is so poor that they don’t even hope for presents this year.  On Christmas morning, they find that “Toddler Christmas” visited in the night and brought them small, precious gifts.

Birthday Surprises edited by Johanna Hurwitz.  Hurwitz asked 10 children’s authors to write a story about a birthday in which a child received an empty box.  Sometimes, the box was the actual present.  Sometimes, the box represented something else.  In one case, the box was sent by mistake and the present was delivered in person.  Imagine getting a box filled with air. 

Silver Packages by Cynthia Rylant.  First published in Rylant’s collection, Children of Christmas, this story tells of a train that rolled through the mountains and gifts that were thrown from the back to the impoverished children.  Every year, a boy wishes for one particular gift.  Every year, he gets something he needs.  He returns as an adult and we find out whether his wish ever came true.

The following website offers a list of books about gift-giving and generosity to share with your young ones. 
The Best Childrens Books about Generosity.