Wednesday, September 7, 2011

School days

I like to think that my kids will never have trouble finding something super to read. But unfortunately, there are always going to be times when kids have trouble finding something that they really want to read. This is where a truly brilliant series comes into play. A well developed series is consistent in writing, character, and quality. And, I think that a series is especially brilliant for children.

If you have a reader who is having trouble finding something that they love to read, try out one of the series below. This is but a small portion of what's out there; this is my personal favorites list. Check out your local library or bookseller if none of these fit the bill. The rule of thumb with a series: if at first you don't succeed, try, try again! Hopefully you can find yourself a winner!

Geronimo Stilton by Geronimo Stilton (grades 2-4) Follow the adventures of the famouse newspaper editor Geronimo Stilton and his crazy family.

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling (grades 3-adult) A wonderful series about (you guessed it!) the young wizard Harry Potter as he attends Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and overcomes the evils of the wizarding world. Need I say more?

Magic in Manhattan Series by Sarah Mlynowski (Young adult-girls) Living in New York City with their mother, Miri and Rachel learn how to navigate life as young witches. This series is hysterically funny and well written.

Ramona Quimby by Beverly Cleary (grades 2-5) Everyone loves Ramona! Every child (and parent who reads the book aloud) will find something to adore about this feisty gal.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan (grades 4-6, but I love these books!) Percy Jackson discovers that he is a halfling-half human, half Greek god. This series follows Percy on some amazing adventures as he learns of his special powers and attends camp Half-blood.

Magic Treehouse Series by Mary Pope Osborne (grades k-2) The fantastic globetrotting adventures of Jack and Annie.

Judy Moody by Megan McDonald (grades 1-3) Judy Moody is feisty and fun. My daughters have eaten these books up!

Sisters Grimm Series (grades 3-adult) Sabrina and Daphne Grimm discover that they are the relatives of the famous brothers Grimm. The sisters Grimm learn to be fairy tale detectives, just as the brothers Grimm were before them. These are the epitome of the fractured fairy tale!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Magnolia League by Katie Crouch: Book Cover

The Magnolia League by Katie Crouch
ages 14+

When Alex's mother suddenly dies, she is left to live with her wealthy Grandmother in Savannah, Georgia. Little does she know, but she is a member of the Magnolia League, Savannah's exclusive debutante society. The members of the Magnolia League are all beautiful, wealthy, and powerful women. But at what cost? Will Alex discover the secret to their world before she becomes entangled in it?

While this book is a real page-turner, it has some references to drugs (Alex grew up in a commune/pot farm) and sex. Hoo-doo also figures prominently in the novel as it is the main source of the Magnolia League's power and beauty. Although Katie Crouch creates memorable characters and a heart thumping story, I would encourage parents to peruse this novel before allowing their young adults to dive into it.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Ida B

by Katherine Hannigan
Ages 10+

Ida B is a happy girl living on her parent's farm and being home schooled.  She loves the land and talks with everything all living things daily.  Then, her mother is diagnosed with cancer and everything begins to change.  Ida is forced to attend public school and refuses to like her teacher or make friends.  Her father has to sell some of their land.  Her mother and father have been acting different and breaking promises they made with her.  Ida B has to find her way through all the changes that are happening to her.

The book is written from the perspective of Ida B.  When Ida B's life starts to fall apart, you feel her frustration and how she acts out is typical of child behavior.  I recommend this book to families who are experiencing illness in their families  It could help understand everyone's perspective and how to help people work out things during this difficult time.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


by Scott Westerfeld
Ages: 13+
Tally is now one of them, a special.  She was now supreme hunting and fighting machine, engineered to bring the uglies down and pretties stupid.  Tally's memories keep haunting her and tries to forget everything.  Until she's is offered a chance to permanently end the New Smoke, can her memories help her guide her to make the right choice. 

This was the third and finally series by Westerfeld.  It started with the Uglies, then the Pretties, and ended with the Specials.  It was a good book.  I loved the first book, second was good sequel, the third book made the story a little long for me.  I was glad it ended and no more twists at the end.  The series does address the themes of what beauty really means.  He creates a fascinating world of what agency really is.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Bear in Underwear

by Todd H. Doodler
Ages: pre-readers to 5

Bear found a backpack while playing hide and seek with his friends.  When they opened the backpack, they found it was full of different kinds of underwear.  Bear tried all the kinds on.  He finally found a pair that was just right.

I saw this book in the bookstore.  I was drawn to it because of the cover.  Bear was in underwear and the underwear was soft on the cover.  This is a great story to help start interest in potty training.  My favorite part when Bear tries all the kinds of underwear.  I died laughing.  Go to the library and get this for those pre-readers to get them ready and interested in learning about going the potty. 

Monday, July 11, 2011


by John Rocco

A young girl and her family lived in the big city.  She wanted to play a board game with them, but everyone was too busy using the computer, watching television, and talking on the phone.  Then, suddenly all the lights went out in the city.  Because it was a hot and sticky, the family decides to go outside and they notice the stars in the sky, talk with their neighbors on the street, and were able to spend time together as a family.  The lights returned and everything went back to normal, but not completely. 

I was drawn to this book in the library because the cover intrigued me.  I loved the pictures of this book as well as the theme.  It focused on making sure we noticed the small things and take time with our family doing things together. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Princess Academy

by Shannon Hale
Ages: 11+

Miri, a 14 year old girl, wants to be a miner with her father and older sister in the quarry.  Mining linder (stone) is the way of the life for the town of Mount Eskel.  All the local girls are rounded up to attend a princess academy, when the prophecies state the prince will choose his wife from their town.  Miri and the other girls are taught how to read, write, and act like a princess.  In addition to her natural intelligence and high spirit, she discovers a special language "quarry-speech" that grew out of work songs in the mines and uses linder as a medium.  Miri struggles to make friends with other girls because of the natural competition to become princess.  She also struggles with her own feelings of wanting to become princess and her feelings for Peder and her village.  Miri is able to lead her classmates in the fight against being treated as social inferiors in the academy, at the same time educating herself in ways that will better the village.  The prince will choose a princess, but who and what happens?

This book is a Newbery Honor Winner in 2006.  Hale is a great story teller.  I really enjoyed this book because it was a fairy-tale with updated feminist ideas.  It reminds me of the story of Mulan.  This book is for younger girls.  It teaches the importance of education and be true to yourself and dreams. 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Life, After

by Sarah Darer Littman
Ages: 14+

Dani's aunt and unborn cousin were killed in a terrorist attack.  Since then, everything in her life in Argentina begins to crumble including private school, boyfriend, loving family, etc...  Dani's family finally decides to escape the United States when there is nothing left in Argentina.  Dani tries to start fresh, but adjusting to a new culture, learning a new language, and living in a small apartment is difficult.  America is not all is cracked up to be.  Dani is able to make friends with an usual boy named Jon and it changes her life.

I really enjoyed this book because it gave me great insight into students who have moved to the United State trying to adjust to everything that is different.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Hundred Dresses

By Eleanor Estes
Ages: 10-14

Wanda Petronski is a poor Polish-American girl that wears the same faded blue dress to school everyday.  Her classmates, Peggy and Maddie, laugh at the dress and Wanda claims to own one hundred dresses. This outrageous and obvious lie becomes a game, as the girls in her class corner her every day before school, demanding that she describe for them all of her dresses.  After Wanda has moved unexpectedly, Peggy and Maddie discover the truth about Wanda.

This cute book addresses the theme of bullying and judging a book by its cover.  Peggy and Maddie get to know about Wanda and realize they were not nice to her. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Hunchback Assignments

The Hunchback Assignments (The Hunchback Assignments, #1)
by Arthur Slade
Ages: 13+

A mysterious Mr. Socrates saves Modo from a traveling freak show as a boy.  He is trained to be a first class secret agent for Permanent Association.  Finally, at the age of 14 he is able to have his first assignment in London.  Modo investigates the disappearences of several children.  While using his shape-shifting gift, he discovers The Clockwork Guild (a secret organization).  During his mission, he teams up with another young agent, Octavia Milkweed.

What a unique modern adaption of Victor Hugo's Hunchback of Notre Dame.  Modo is a character you really fall in love with.  This book is about the dark underground of London in the Victorian era.  Arthur Slade is able to keep the topic kid friendly in the setting.  I enjoy the book and recommend it for readers who enjoy secret agent books like Alex Rider series.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Racing the Sun

by Paul Pitts
Ages: 8-14
Brandon Rogers is a 12 year old American Indian and self-proclaimed underachiever.  His father had left his heritage behind during college and Brandon had grown up in suburbs.  Brandon just wanted to a regular kid.  Then, his grandfather moved off the reservation into the bottom bunk of Brandon's room.  Brandon finds it difficult to deal with chanting at night and getting up before the sunrise to run. He learns the importance of embracing his heritage without giving up the new.

The book is a great insight into the southwest American Indian culture.  It is an inspiring story about a young boy learning about his background.  A grandfather wanting to share his story and a father than learns a lesson about how to love the new and old ways of life.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Little Red Pen

written by Janet Stevens and illustrated by Susan Stevens Crummel
ages: kindergarten through 4th grade

The Little Red Pen is working so hard to correct a mountain of homework. When she asks the stapler, scissors, eraser, pencil, and highlighter for help they all say, "no!" When the Little Red Pen becomes so exhausted with work, she falls into The Pit of No Return (the trash can). Will the school supplies learn to work together to save the Little Red Pen?

Run, run, run to get this from your local library or bookstore. This is quite possibly the most creative and clever take on The Little Red Hen that I have ever read. We have read this book enough that we have some parts memorized. Sisters and long time corroborators Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel have crafted a truly delightful story. Although there are numerous speaking parts and a somewhat complicated plot, it is just plain fun for everyone.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Frank and Ernest

written and illustrated by Alexandra Day
ages: preschool-age 6

"Business sitters" Frank the elephant and his friend Ernest the bear are hired by Mrs. Miller to run her diner while she is away. The two friends want to do their very best, so they learn diner speak, the language used by diner servers and short order cooks. The two friends give it their all as they whip up amazing diner delicacies.

Best known for her Good dog, Carl books, Alexandra Day creates charming characters with beautiful illustrations. I am always a fan of diner books (see the Two Eggs Please post) and was tickled by this book's clever illustrations and admirable use of diner speak. My kids and I had a great time trying out the diner dictionary that covers the front and back inside cover of the book. Just thinking about it makes me hungry for an eve with a lid and some moo juice (that's apple pie and a glass of milk).

Monday, January 31, 2011


Hug by Jez Alborough: Book Cover
written and illustrated by Jez Alborough
ages: baby through preschooler

Swing through the jungle with Bobo the monkey as he watches lots of mommies and babies give hugs. Sweet Bobo realizes that he needs a hug of his own from mommy. Will he get his own hug?

This sweet and simple picture book is a surefire hit for the preschool and baby set. This would make a lovely Valentine for the smallest person on your sweets list.