Saturday, May 31, 2014

Great Summer Read-Alouds for 1st - 8th Graders

One of the things I appreciate most about summer is my ability to spend more time reading aloud to my kids. Generally, I read to my entire crew (ages 7-14) together, but occasionally, just to one or two at a time. Even though all of my kids can read, and my oldest ones read voraciously, we still enjoy the time that we read together and the ability to discuss a book that we all share. I'm a firm believer in reading aloud even to, especially to, older children as well. People often ask me if my older kids are ever resistant to listening to me read aloud. They truly are not. Partly because it has always been part of our routine, and partly because I don't generally require that they ONLY be listening to me. During the summer in particular, they are often otherwise engaged while I read, with Lego building, puzzle piecing, drawing, sometimes even laundry folding.

The books listed below are group by grade, but many of the titles can be adjusted up or down a grade, or two. In fact, my 7th and 8th graders still enjoy listening to Moomin books, and my 1st grader loved Wonder last summer when we read it aloud. 

1st Grade

Trumpet of the Swan - A joyful read of a Trumpeter swan searching for his sound.
My Father's Dragon - An easy-to-follow tale of a 9 year old boy's endeavors to find a dragon and fly home on its back.
Moominsummer Madness - The Moomins are on the hunt for a new house following a flood, but once they find one, they discover they've found more than they bargained for.
Ramona the Pest - Energetic Ramona Quimby starts kindergarten with all the adversity and pleasure that entails.

2nd Grade

Pippi in the South Seas - Pippi's adventures move to a South Pacific island complete with beaches, robbers, and pearls.
Henry Huggins - The boy-next-door finds a mischievous dog; adventures - and calamity - ensue.
Seabird - A sea-faring gull narrates travels at sea, from Nantucket to Greenland.
The Year of Billy Miller - Billy is starting second grade, navigating friendships, and trying to endure his pesky little sister. 

3rd Grade

James and the Giant Peach - James, forced to live with 2 horrible aunts, accidentally drops magic crystals by an old peach tree and then goes on an escapade in the giant peach that results.
Hoot - The new kid at school is forced to take on a pancake restaurant, and bullies, in defense of endangered owls.
Because of Winn Dixie - When an ugly, yet happy, dog arrives, Opal learns 10 things about her long-lost mother, and makes friends who become her family.
The One and Only Ivan - Resigned to his life in a glass cage, a gorilla gains new perspective when a baby elephant taken from the wild is forced to join him.

4th Grade

The Secret Garden - A lonely orphan is sent to an English manor on a moor where she meets two boys who help change her life, each in very different ways.
Where the Red Fern Grows - A boy and his two dogs range the hills and river bottoms, finding both sadness and victory there.
One Crazy Summer - Three Brooklyn girls arrive in California to spend the summer with their mother, where they learn more about their family, and themselves, than they expected.
The Lemonade War - Sibling rivalry by way of lemonade stand: will the biggest personality or financial smarts win the war?

5th Grade

Old Yeller - A simple, but moving, story of a boy and his faithful dog in Texas in the late 1800s.
Island of the Blue Dolphins - An Indian girl lives on an island alone year after year waiting for a ship to rescue her.
Zane and the Hurricane - Zane is visiting his great-grandmother in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina strikes leaving him stranded and trying to survive in a strange, water-logged city.
Three Times Lucky - Mo LoBeau, raised by a cafe-owner Colonel, wishes for her long-lost mother and helps uncover the truth in a local mystery.

6th Grade

My Side of the Mountain - A boy runs away from NYC to live in the Catskills on his grandfather's mountain, learning more about himself than he ever thought possible. 
Wonder - Auggie, born with a cranio-facial abnormality, starts school in NYC with mixed reactions from the students there.
Snicker of Magic - Felicity might be new in Midnight Gulch, but even she can see a glimmer of magic that used to be here. But can she bring the magic back, and will it help her mother?
Sway - Cass's mom takes off and her father takes her on a trip in Roast, an aged RV, introducing her to the power of Sway, a magical force bringing help to those in need.

7th Grade

Hatchet - Brian survives a plane crash in the Canadian wilderness but must make his way alone with nothing but a ratty jacket and a hatchet to aid him.
Walk Two Moons - A country girl travels from Ohio to Idaho with her unconventional grandparents while spinning the tale of another girl whose past starts to mirror her own.
Half a Chance - A photographer's daughter tries to mimic her father's eye for the camera while getting to know the neighbor boy next door and helping him learn the truth about his grandmother.
Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin - Rump lives in a land where your name is your destiny. Will he discover that he has some control over that destiny as well?

8th Grade

A Single Shard - A 13-year-old lives under a bridge in a potter's village desiring nothing more than making a pot of his own.
Tuck Everlasting - The Tuck family carefully guards the source of their eternal life, until a little girl discovers their secret and they must help her understand why it might not be the blessing it seems.
A Tangle of Knots - A magical puzzle waiting to be unknotted, an orphan with a talent for baking doesn't realize that fate has set her on course from the moment of her birth.
Liar and Spy - An enjoyable tale of two quirky boys who help each other deal with bullies, family issues, and friendships.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Flashback Friday: Henry Huggins

A certain little 8 year old boy is very popular in our house right now. I hear my younger boys talking about him; I hear his voice wafting from their room. He is Henry Huggins, and he stepped right out of 1950 and into their bedroom to bring captivating stories of things like smuggling a dog onto a city bus, digging more than 1300 worms to earn money for a football, and buying a fish that then gives birth to 15 more fish.

As Henry moves through the series, he ages from 8 to 11, but he is adventurous, responsible, fun-loving, well-meaning, and maybe a bit trouble-prone. From raising money for a bike in Henry and Beezus to proving his capability at delivering papers in Henry and the Paper Route, there is never a dull moment with Henry, Beezus, Ramona, and Ribsy around. Although the stories are somewhat dated, they are full of the innocent adventures that should mark every childhood. Occasionally, I hear a question from my boys, "What's a phone booth? A fishbowl, fish, snail, and water plants are only $.75?!" But mostly, they just take the stories at face value and thoroughly enjoy each one.

Now, I'm going to let you in on a little secret. You can get this entire series of book, 6 books in all, in audiobook format together for one price! Neil Patrick Harris provides the narration with fabulous enthusiasm. has all 6 Henry Huggins books together in one collection for the cost of 1 credit, if you are a member. If you aren't a member, you can join with a free trial membership and get this set with your free credit! If you aren't a member, and aren't interested in joining, the non-member cost is still only $33 dollars which is less than $6 per book, still an excellent price for audiobooks.

If you are interested in the paperbacks instead, you can find them in the Books with Strong Males section of The Book Children Store.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Boy Who Loved Words

Deliberate. Luxurious. Mystical. Resilient. Savory. Cooperative. Scrumptious. Intricate. Spry. Mellifluous. Ample. Spectacular.

While other children might collect rocks, feathers, or stamps, Selig is a collector of words. Words that moved his heart, like mama, and words that ring in his ears, like tintinnabulating, and words that he can taste with his tongue, like tantalizing. Other children find him unusual, which leads to loneliness, but following an inspiring dream, Selig sets out on an adventurous journey to find his purpose as a word collector. As he finds inspiration for his word collection, he also acquires a purpose for his spread words, to sprinkle, disburse and broadcast them. Selig discovers new happiness in the spreading of his word collection and helping those in need find their words.

Logophiles unite! I originally purchased this book for my littlest guy, who has been a wordsmith nearly all of his life. Slow to talk but quick to use words much bigger than most his age, he has long been a collector of words, and I knew this book would quickly become a favorite. I was surprised to discover though that this would find a place in the hearts of nearly all in our family as we read through Selig's word collections and his sprinkled words throughout the town. What a great resource for elementary school classrooms to build vocabulary in a fun, unique way!

You can find The Boy Who Loved Words in the Picture Books - Books with Strong Males section of The Book Children Store.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

On a Beam of Light

On a Beam of Light had me at the first flip through: Albert Einstein made accessible to early elementary ages through whimsical illustration and simple, yet appealing, text. What a novel concept!

On a Beam of Light starts with Albert's early childhood, his lack of early speech, through his hardships in school (skips over his flee from Nazis in WWII), then moves through his adult life and accomplishments. Actually, the book doesn't over-emphasize any specific accomplishments, which wouldn't mean much to a 6-year-old anyway. Einstein's theory of relativity is better left for middle-to-high schoolers. Instead, On a Beam of Light focuses on Albert's innate curiosity and penchant for pondering the mysteries of the natural world. It explains his captivation with magnetism, light, and gravity and delves slightly deeper into his discovery of atoms, but never rises above what could be easily understood and enjoyed by younger students.

The illustrations are equally as appealing as the text. Wispy sketching and broad strokes of color bring an air of light and flighty thinking and are the perfect accompanying illustration to this text.

You can find On a Beam of Light in the Picture Books - Nonfiction section of The Book Children Store

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Sway, plus a chat with Amber McRee Turner!

Sway, Amber McRee Turner's 2012 novel, grabbed my attention on the first page. Anything that describes "tired eyeballs" as feeling like "they've been rolled in corn-bread crumbs" has the potential to be a uniquely descriptive book. I wasn't disappointed. Turner's witty, unusual language provides a great contrast to the novel's often heavy subject of divorce.

Ten-year-old Cass spends the early part of her summer waiting and longing for her mother, who volunteers with a local relief organization, to return from her latest mission. Cass adores her rescuer mother while finding her part-time janitor, part-time meat salesman father to be dull as dirt. Her mother's homecoming quickly goes awry, forcing Cass to reluctantly spend the summer traveling in a beat-up RV, named Roast, with her father. Through random shoes on the side of the road, famous soap slivers, and the extraordinary power of Sway, Cass slowly realizes that not everything, or everyone, in life is what you expect, and sometimes a hero can be disguised in a fraying 70s green-and-yellow-striped suit. Turner's first novel is by turns heartbreaking, enchanting, and just plain awes (that's awesome for you Sway newbies).

Amber McRee Turner's latest novel, Circa Now, comes out today! In celebration of this event, she agreed to have a little chat with me to answer some questions:

What inspired you to write your first novel, Sway?

I love the way God puts imperfect people in our own imperfect lives. We all make mistakes, some big and some small...even parents do. But there’s still so much good all around us, even in the midst of really hard times. The real magic is the hope that he gives us that things will work out okay, even if it’s not the way we thought it was going to be. It might end up even better than we hoped.  

(Detail-wise, there have been many recurring tidbits that have made an impression on me for my entire life...most of them taken in on road trips throughout the American South. In other words, ratty old RVs + small hotel soaps + abandoned roadside shoes + sudden storms + What if? = SWAY.)

You did such an adept job of writing Cass’s perspective of her parents, idolizing the deserting parent and blaming the remaining parent, which is a dynamic many divorced parents can identify with. Is there a particular place from which you drew that experience?

Thank you, Joy. 

I drew inspiration for the heartache from my own mother’s childhood experience. She had a father that left their family permanently when she was young, after a violent encounter. My mom later found out that her dad had secretly started several other families in different states. Thankfully, it was clear to my mother from the beginning that her own stalwart, hard-working mother was not to blame for his actions. So, for the particular “blaming” relationship dynamic, I guess I just put myself in Cass’ shoes and imagined how I might feel had I idolized my mom for so long, only to have her disappear.

How is your latest novel, that is coming out today, influenced by your first work? Or are they a completely different and separate experience for you?

Writing CIRCA NOW was quite a different experience for me, primarily because of the photographic nature of the novel, which Disney was kind and trusting enough to let me illustrate myself. (I will always be grateful to them for that.) The story is full of photographs, some very personal to me, that I have doctored up in silly ways to help tell the story of Circa and her friends. Circa calls them simply, “The Shopt.” It’s a dimension, much like our own, where anything is possible.

Where CIRCA NOW and SWAY do run parallel, though, is that they share in common a hope that can prevail over any natural, or man-made disaster.

What are you working on now? Another middle grade novel or a new direction?

If by working you mean drinking coffee and eating strudel and putting down about a dozen words a day, then yes I am working on a new book. It will be another middle grade, but nonetheless a departure for me. It’s my first foray into the action/adventure world. Truth be told, I’m actually bouncing back and forth between two concepts. One has my heart, and the other has my gut right now...and they are fighting for control of my head. I hope to know a winner very soon. In a nutshell, it’s “submarine vs. big-rig” in my brain right this very minute.

Which children’s books or children’s book authors inspired you as a child?

I was particularly fond of Shel Silverstein as a child. His poems opened a window to me. To see how someone could use silliness to convey big, important concepts. “Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.” I love that.

Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?

I thank you for the honor of being a part of your blog! I’d like to include that all are welcome to visit my web site at, where they’ll find a collection of printable “Shopt Story Starters” to try. I’d love to hear what your followers can come up with!

Thanks so much, Amber, for chatting with me here at The Book Children! Amber's books, Sway and Circa Now can both be found in The Book Children's Store in the Books with Strong Females section.

Monday, May 26, 2014


Having heard nothing about Fallout prior to stumbling upon it at the bookstore, I'll admit that I was first drawn to the cover art. There's definitely something to be said for catchy design, even on a middle grade novel.

Set in the Cold War-era NYC suburbs, eleven-year-old Scott Porter is quite aware of the threat of nuclear war. His father is the only one on the block constructing a bomb shelter, much to his mother's annoyance, and rightfully so. In Strasser's reimagined 1962, nuclear war is not averted, and Scott is awakened one night by his frantic father and quickly ushered into the shelter. What follows is a tight narrative of the family's two weeks in the shelter. Scott's father only built and stocked the shelter to accommodate their family of four, not the extra six people that force their way inside during the chaos. The adults bicker and snap at each other, privacy is impossible, one of the adults is racist, and supplies, including food, run low almost immediately. The story of their time in the shelter weaves with flashbacks of the months immediately preceding the nuclear bomb's explosion to give you character development and a sense of history.

Despite the fact that the group suffers greatly during their time in the shelter, and the book is quite descriptive of these sufferings, the story is told from Scott's perspective and is very much appropriate for upper elementary to middle school ages. I was a bit less than thrilled with one character's lack of moral compass. He encourages Scott to drink, steal, look at Playboys, and he's obsessed with breasts. For that reason I wouldn't recommend Fallout to kids under 11. However, the 1960s fear surrounding the Bay of Pigs Invasion and nuclear bomb threat from Russia is noticeably missing from children's historical fiction, and this novel does that time period justice.

You can find Fallout in the Middle Grade Books: Historical Fiction section of The Book Children Store.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Flashback Friday: Rikki Tikki Tavi

I think we'll start a new series here on The Book Children. There are so many great classics and otherwise unknown or forgotten books written many moons ago. Each Friday, we'll feature one of those oldie-but-goodie books here on Flashback Friday.

I admit to never having heard the story of Rikki Tikki Tavi before about 18 months ago. I happened to be hunting through for inexpensive classics for my audiobook-loving kids. I found Rikki Tikki Tavi for less than a buck and decided to buy it. Apparently that was a wise decision; they've listened to it approximately 39,837 times since then.

Rikki Tikki Tavi is the thrilling adventure of a brave mongoose who defends his human family from the garden cobras. The language in this story beautifully rolls off the tongue, just begging to be read aloud. Rikki Tikki prevents the garden cobras from harming the family he lives with in the jungles of India. Aside from a few harrowing scenes of animal violence (the mongoose kills cobra eggs, agitating the mother cobra, and the human child is threatened by one of the cobras), the tale superbly depicts loyalty, courage, and bravery while accurately portraying animal behaviors and the wilds of India.

In addition to the paperback version offered at The Book Children Store, you can purchase a Kindle version for free or an Audible (mp3) version for less than $2.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Harry and Horsie

Harry and Horsie might be the most-read picture book that my 7-year-old owns. Each kid seems to have his or her own particular favorite, amongst a shelf full of special books. Harry and Horsie seems to have the longevity to still frequently find its way into the bedtime reading even now, nearly 5 years after he first fell in love with the space-visiting duo.

Harry, while in bed one evening, spies his Super Duper Bubble Blooper sitting on the shelf and can't resist just a few more minutes of play before falling asleep. As he bloops bubbles, a few of his toys become trapped inside and bloop right out his window! Before he knows what's happening, he favorite pal, Horsie, is trapped inside a bubble and blooped right out into the night sky. What is Harry to do? Fire up his toy rocket ship and follow Horsie into space, of course!

The tale of Harry and Horsie is by turns adorable and amusing, but the truly exceptional artwork make this book worth adding to your library. The retro comic-style illustration in a limited palette of primary colors pops off of each page with pizzaz reminiscent of Roy Lichtenstein's 60s-era paintings. I was sold the first moment I saw this book, and fortunately, my little boy agrees!

You can find Harry and Horsie in the Picture Books section of The Book Children Store.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Princess Labelmaker to the Rescue

My older boys have been huge fans of the Origami Yoda books since the first one came out when my oldest was in upper elementary school. Since then, both older boys have eagerly anticipated the arrival of each new volume in the series. The excitement over the books hit its peak when they were able to meet Tom Angleberger in person 2 summers ago and get his signature in the Fortune Wookie book. (I blogged about that experience, and the flurry of paper-folding that commenced, here.) They were, of course, thrilled to get the latest addition, Princess Labelmaker to the Rescue recently, and Paulie, my 14 year old, was kind enough to review it for you here:
The kids at McQuarrie Middle School love origami. Their elective classes were taken away because they scored too low on the mandatory testing. The electives were replaced with a program called FunTime which is a guy with his singing calculator teaching everyone how to do simple problems. The kids want their electives back. They start this club called the Origami Rebel Alliance, each of the club members has their own origami counterpart, to demand their principal give them the electives back. The kids wrote a case file, but it was stolen by a mysterious person called Princess Labelmaker and given to the principal along with a origami Princess Leia. 
I liked the book. It was a good addition to the series. I’m anxious to read the last one. And I really can’t wait to try out the origami instructions in the back of the book!

Since I was fortunate enough to win a pair of books, including Princess Labelmaker, in a giveaway last week, I thought I'd pay it forward to one lucky winner here at The Book Children! You can enter the giveaway below in the Rafflecopter. This giveaway only lasts for 24 hours! Enter now!

All of the Origami Yoda Books are available in a new Humor section of The Book Children Store.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Out of My Mind

I'm going to admit from the start that because I read Wonder and Out of My Mind at nearly the same time last summer, it's very hard for me not to compare the two in my head, especially when I'm thinking about reviewing them. I will also admit that I prefer Wonder to Out of My Mind, which is not to say that I didn't find a great deal of merit to Out of My Mind. In fact, I would actually recommend that everyone read both because I find both books to be critically important to middle graders, who can sometimes be a short-sighted, cliquish group.

Out of My Mind tells the story of Melody, who has a brilliant mind and photographic memory despite the cerebral palsy that leaves her mute and unable to control most of her muscles. Although her parents seem to understand, to some extent, that she is intelligent, her doctors and teachers treat her as if her mental faculties are akin to her physical ones. Being unable to communicate effectively drives Melody out of her mind...until she is awarded a device that allows her to finally speak.

Draper does a fantastic job of giving Melody a voice. Her struggles and frustrations are apparent and understandable. I appreciated that the author's bravery in allowing an event to happen to Melody that was not easily resolvable. Often times in children's literature you find the main character on the cusp of a negative event, and suddenly, they overcome. This is fantastic in some cases, but life does not always follow that sunshine and roses pattern. I did have a few problems with Out of My Mind: the teachers were horrific, the children's language seemed stilted at times, and the near-tragedy at the end seemed forced. Despite these few misgivings, I did highly enjoy Out of My Mind, and my children loved it. They actually begged me to read it each day. I think we finished it less than 5 days.

You can find Out of My Mind in the Books with Strong Females section of The Book Children Store.

Monday, May 19, 2014

A Big Guy Took My Ball!

Like a few of the other picture books I've reviewed recently (BallThe Watermelon SeedA Big Guy Took My Ball also won a Geisel honor award this year. Although Mo Willems missed the Medal Winner's book signing I attended, A Big Guy Took My Ball is a treasured early reader in this house and is definitely worthy of a mention here. 

This Elephant and Piggie adventure begins with Piggie relaying the events surrounding her ball being taken by "a big guy". Gerald is rather large, and he assumes the "big guy" is probably close to his size. He steps up to defend his friend and then,  realizing that he is dealing with a WHALE, changes his mind. But even though the whale is large, he's rather lonely, and Gerald and Piggie realize that sometimes even "big guys" just need a friend.

The beauty of Elephant and Piggie books in general, and this book is certainly no exception, is that Willems manages to write early readers that are more than just drivel. Kids, who are just learning to sound out words or who are just becoming more fluent in their reading, get practice with reading, and they enjoy what they are reading. Willems comic timing and simple humor is spot on with the preschool and early elementary set. All of the Elephant and Piggie books have been favorites with my younger 2 children as they were learning to read. We probably own half of them, and the other half we borrow frequently from the library.

You can find A Big Guy Took My Ball, and other Elephant and Piggie books, in the Early Readers section of The Book Children Store.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Tree Lady

When I visited Books of Wonder for the Medal Winners' book signing at the end of March, I happened to meet a most interesting fellow as I was standing in line with my books. As we talked for the half-hour or so that we were in line, I discovered that he was also a children's book author, and he too had the fortune of being in NYC at the right time to catch this event. After my books were signed, I found his book, The Tree Lady, in the store and decided to add it to my already enormous pile of purchases.

The Tree Lady is the story of Kate Sessions, who in the late 1800s became the first person to graduate from the University of California with a science degree--a woman, no less! Following graduation, she became a teacher in southern California and was stunned by the lack of trees and greenery in the landscape. She resolved to bring trees to the San Diego area, even though the locals though this would be an impossibility. She left teaching, became a gardener, researching trees through letters all over the world requesting seeds that she might try to grow in a sunny, dry climate. Eventually, her trees were growing all over San Diego, particularly in City Park (later named Balboa Park) which was soon to house a great fair. When the fair opened, the people who attended were grateful to Kate for the shady trees that kept them cool. Kate Sessions continued gardening and planting trees in San Diego until her death at age 82.

The Tree Lady does an excellent job of telling the history of Kate Sessions while keeping the information fresh and accessible. This book is a perfect first biography for the early elementary age. And upper elementary schoolers will find additional information including names for many of the trees featured and microscopic illustration of the tree parts. In addition to the strictly scientific benefit, The Tree Lady depicts a positive representation of community involvement, gender assumption, societal expectation, and personal confidence.  The illustrations are dynamic and beautiful. After the pages of dusty brown desert, I could practically breathe the cool, green of the trees in the final pages.

You can find The Tree Lady in both the Picture Books--Nonfiction section and the Picture Books--Books with Strong Females section of The Book Children Store.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Julian Chapter: A Wonder Story

Since Wonder was one of my favorite books of 2012, I was thrilled to discover last month that R.J. Palacio was writing an addendum to Auggie Pullman's story. Although Wonder is told from the perspective of many different characters, the primary antagonist, Julian, never has a voice in WonderThe Julian Chapter aims to rectify that by giving the background of Julian's story in his own voice. 

I admit to being a little nervous about reading Julian's story. I wasn't sure what Palacio could write to redeem Julian or his behavior in my mind. Even as I read the quote on the first page, "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle," I was unsure what could possibly be in this bully's past that would account for his atrocious behavior. I think the beauty of Palacio's telling of Julian's story is that when you start to develop some sympathy for Julian, even though it is insufficient to justify his actions, you realize that he's just a 10 year old kid behaving as 10 year old kids sometimes do, especially when the adults in their lives do little to steer them toward kind or generous conduct.

Ultimately, I was grateful that a new character appeared toward the end of Julian's story, his Parisian grandmother. Finally an adult who could gently lead him toward kindness! And as in Wonder, her story, and ultimately Julian's story, will provoke tears by the time you are finished reading.

The Julian Chapter is currently available in eBook or audio version. Wonder is available in our store under the Books with Strong Males category. 365 Days of Wonder, with each of Mr. Browne's precepts (the English teacher's principles to live by referred to in the books) will be published in August.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Sheep-Pig

I'm not sure why I was never aware of the fact that the movie Babe was based on a children's book. I'm equally unsure how I actually stumbled upon the book The Sheep Pig last year. But I did, and it quickly became a favorite read-aloud for my 7 year old.

The Sheep Pig follows the story of Babe, a pig thusly named by his adoptive dog mother, Fly. Fly is a sheep dog on a farm in England and has no respect for the sheep she herds. When Maa, an elderly ewe, is brought to the barn to recover from illness, Babe befriends her and comes to realize that sheep are not quite as dumb as Fly has led Babe to believe. Babe wants nothing more than to follow in Fly's footsteps and become a sheep pig, but he discovers that the sheep are much more cooperative to a friendly word than angry gestures.

When Babe learns the secret password for inspiring the sheep's cooperation, his success as a sheep pig is nearly guaranteed.
"I may be ewe, I may be ram,
I may be mutton, may be lamb,
But on the hoof or on the hook,
I bain't so stupid as I look."

Babe enters the annual sheep dog trials with anxiety and doubt, but through his experience, the entire farm, Fly included, realizes that a gentle word trumps fearful compulsion.

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Watermelon Seed

The last of authors I met at the Medal Winner's book signing was Greg Pizzoli, author of the Geisel Award winning book, The Watermelon Seed. The design in this book is superb, a throwback to simple comic style with broad strokes and minimal, yet bold, color. The alligator sports superb expressions which supplies nearly as much humor as the text.  

Chomp! Chomp! Chomp! The witty and endearing alligator has a problem! He just swallowed a watermelon seed, and he's not quite sure what will happen to him now. He remembers all of the rumors and fears he's heard about what might happen if he swallows a seed. He vows to avoid watermelon forever. Ultimately, he can't give up his favorite summery treat!

The Watermelon Seed addresses the concerns of every small child who fears the dreaded swallowing of a watermelon seed. Equal parts humor and charm, the 3 to 7 year old in your life will fall quickly in love with this expressive alligator.

In addition to The Watermelon Seed, Pizzoli's new venture, Number One Sam, hits stores tomorrow! You can pre-order a copy at The Book Children's Store by clicking the link above or visiting the Picture Books section, which is also where you'll find The Watermelon Seed.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

a Mother's Day book list

To celebrate Mother's Day, I'd like to share a list of my favorite books about mothers and their special relationship with their children. Although there are many lovely books in publication depicting mothers, these are a few of my person favorites. I hope you find an old favorite or a new gem among this list.

Time for Bed - Although this book doesn't specifically address mothers, the pictures depict a sweet interaction between an animal mother and her baby on each double page spread. The text on each is a rhyming lullaby to help baby to sleep and expresses a lovely sentiment. All of my babies loved this bedtime story, and I always enjoyed reading it to them.

Owl Babies - I didn't discover this gem until my youngest was a baby, but it quickly became a favorite. It succinctly addresses the fear of many little ones when mommy is gone, whether it's to the store for a quick trip, or to the bathroom with--horror of horrors--the door closed. Even though my baby is now 7, he still reaches for this book on occasion.

Are You My Mother? - This is the only book on the list that I remember and love from my own childhood. A baby bird's search for his mother is complicated by the fact that he isn't quite sure what she looks like. Hilarity ensues and makes for a perfect first reader for the preschool or early elementary set.

The Kissing Hand - My daughter discovered this book when she was 3, and it became a nightly read for her. Although the separation mentioned in this book is because of school, many children relate to the notion of holding onto their mother's kisses regardless of why they are separated. My youngest did a unit of this during kindergarten, and it quickly became a favorite of his as well.

Ramona and Her Mother - Ramona is 7 (and a half!) in this Ramona book and struggling a bit with growing up. She's jealous of her older sister and discovering that families occasionally have problems. Her relationship with her mother is going through some changes as well, and Ramona can't understand why she can't just remain her mother's little girl. Fortunately, Cleary provides hope for all children who feel misunderstood. As children grow older and the relationship with their mothers evolve, Ramona and Her Mother does an excellent job of helping them navigate those sometimes turbulent years.

Little Women - Little Women. How could any list of books about motherhood not include the loving, progressive Marmee. A pillar of strength in time of trouble, Marmee represents the best attributes of all of our mothers. Marmee is wise, steadfast, hard-working, a counsellor in time of trouble. She has strong principles and believes that the poorest members of society are just as important as the wealthiest. She raises her daughters to chase their dreams and believe in their talents. In my opinion, Marmee is the perfect role model of motherhood, yet even she admits she used to have a temper.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Only a few more hours to enter the giveaway!

Today's the day!

The giveaway to celebrate the opening of the new Book Children Store ends today at 4 pm EST. If you haven't entered yet, you have a few more hours!

I've had a few questions about The Book Children's Store. I'll do my best to answer a few of them right now. The Book Children's new Store is an "astore" run by What this means is that when you add items to your cart, they are marked as being added through The Book Children. When you check out, it will add the items from your Book Children cart to your Amazon cart. You pay through Amazon; the items are shipped through Amazon. If you have a Prime membership, it will still apply to the items you purchased at The Book Children. I get a small percentage of the sales for any book you purchase through the store or the links posted here at The Book Children, even if they link directly to Amazon.

I've tried to add as many books as I could think of that we have recommended or enjoyed. If you can't find something, let me know here or on The Book Children's Facebook page. I'm happy to help!

If you have any more questions, feel free to ask. Good luck in the giveaway!! I'll announce the winner here and in the original giveaway post this afternoon.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Because of Mr. Terupt

The audiobook version of Because of Mr. Terupt has been on near constant play in our car recently. This, despite the fact that both of my older boys had already read it. All 4 of my kids enjoyed it immensely, which clearly means it needs a review here on The Book Children.

Because of Mr. Terupt, told from the voices of 7 different students, describes the year that Mr. Terupt, a young new teacher, came to teach their fifth grade class. The home lives of the various children, discussing topics including divorce, sibling death, teen pregnancy, help the reader understand their perspectives. By getting inside each of the student's heads, their characters are quickly fleshed out, and their differences make it easy for children to relate to them. Mr. Terupt is a patient, enterprising teacher who seems to desire to "get" each one of them and help them on a personal level. To expose the climax of this book would be a huge spoiler, but it's safe to say that most third to sixth grade students would enjoy this read. You also might never look at words the same way after hearing about "dollar words". ;)

You can find Because of Mr. Terupt in The Book Children's Store in the Middle Grade Books section.

If you haven't entered the giveaway, enter now! Tomorrow someone will win one of the Featured This Month books from the new Book Children Store!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Mr. Wuffles

Another Caldecott medal honor recepient I had the privilege of meeting at the Medal Winner's book signing was Mr. Wuffles author, David Weisner. A long time fan of Weisner's Flotsam, Tuesday, and The Three Pigs, I was thrilled to meet him in person. Weisner has certainly captured the wordless book audience, and Mr. Wuffles does not disappoint. 

Actually, Mr. Wuffles contains many words, but they are nearly all in alien which is rather difficult to decipher. My 7 year old was actually a tad perplexed that I couldn't interpret the symbols representing the alien speak. His opinion is that we should sit down one day and make a code sheet and try to break the alien's code. Another of my sons thinks that the symbols are chirps and beeps, much like R2D2 language. Therein lies the beauty of Weisner's work; two children can "read" the same book and enjoy parts of it quite differently.

The illustrations captured the cat's personality perfectly, and even the alien were expressive, which is a remarkable feat for the plethora of little green guys. You won't find nearly the beauty of illustration here as in Flotsam, but what Mr. Wuffles lacks in beauty, it makes up for in imagination, suspense, and humor. Subtle details will draw you back to read again and again as the aliens and their unlikely insect allies scheme to outsmart Mr. Wuffles. The emphasis of friendship and teamwork are also excellently portrayed throughout the illustrations.

Don't forget enter the giveaway if you haven't yet! Win one of the Featured This Month books from the new Book Children Store!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

My Side of the Mountain

I remember the first thing that Paulie said to me after we finished the first chapter of My Side of the Mountain, "Well, of course he could survive in the wild with all that stuff he had with him." I chuckled under my breath knowing that despite Paulie's initial lack of awe with this inspiring story, eventually he would come to see the beauty, the creativity of this coming-of-age tale.

There are books you read to your children because they are humorous and you want to share a good laugh. There are books you read to your children because they reach into the depths of humanity and you want to share that bit of the human soul with them. There are books you read to your children because you want them to recognize the infinite possibilities available to them in this world, in this life. My Side of the Mountain is all of those books.

Sam Gribley is a quiet but adventurous kid with a thirst to visit and make a life on his grandfather's land. He leaves NYC with nothing but this wish in his heart. Through a kindly neighbor in the woods and a librarian who feeds him information, he realizes his dream and manages to find an wealth of opportunity in the Catskill Mountains. Living in a hollowed tree with a deerskin door and meals such as fish, mussels, onion soup, turnip soup, smoked venison, Sam finds his footing as a wilderness survivor. With an independent spirit and a peregrine falcon as a companion, Sam lives for a year on his grandfather's mountain in the Catskills.

As a parent who takes her children camping and spends a great deal of time out in nature, I appreciate the fact that Jean Craighead George spared no details in her story. Some children might find her descriptions a bit dry. My kids actually absorbed every word hungrily, and we often had conversations about the details following our family readings. Although this book has clear appeal for the tween/teen boy, my teen daughter and 7-year-old son were equally enthralled. 

Don't forget enter the giveaway if you haven't yet! Win one of the Featured This Month books from the new Book Children Store!

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Book Children Store! And a giveaway!

We're thrilled to announce the opening of The Book Children's Store. Every book in our store has been enjoyed by a member (or five) of our family, and we're happy to now be able to help deliver those books to you! Every book you purchase from our little store will help us bring you more reviews and even better...more giveaways! Additionally, if you purchase books that are linked in our posts, we will similarly benefit from those purchases. Thank you so much for your support!

To kick things off the right way at The Book Children's Store, we are excited to announce a giveaway of the book of your choice from our Featured This Month page. All of the books that are Featured This Month have been recently reviewed by The Book Children. Simply check out our store by clicking on the logo or one of the Store links above, and let us know in the comments which book would be your choice from the Featured This Month page. You can earn additional chances to win by liking The Book Children's Facebook page or following The Book Children on Twitter. The giveaway ends Friday, 5/9 at 4 pm, and we will announce the winner then! Good luck!

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, May 4, 2014


Getting back to the books I bought at the Medal Winner's book signing, one of the Geisel honor books for this year is the adorable and hilarious Ball. Ball will remind of you of every dog you ever owned, or even played with, that is obsessed with chasing and retrieving his ball. 

Beginning with waking his owner wishing to play ball, this humorous and quickly paced story moves through the dog's day of trying to get anyone and everyone to play ball with him. From the family cat to the baby, the dog's persistence has entertaining results as he eventually finds a playmate to toss his ball.

I categorized Ball as both a wordless book and an early reader because although it contains only one word throughout, non-readers can certainly enjoy this story as it is largely portrayed through the witty illustrations. An early reader will gain confidence through the repetitive lone word sprinkled liberally throughout the illustrations.

And the inscribed message that Ball's author, Mary Sullivan, left in our copy might have been my favorite of the medal winner's signing. :)

Friday, May 2, 2014

Fortunately, the Milk

Fortunately, the Milk, a whimsical tale by bestselling author Neil Gaiman, found its way to our bookshelf when I needed a last minute book to add to Paulie's Christmas books. A short read, Paulie devoured it in one evening, then Elizabeth proceeded to inhale it over a road trip a couple of days later. Both declared Fortunately, the Milk to be raucously funny with awesome illustrations. Because of it's relatively short pages, plentiful pictures, and eccentrically comical story, advanced readers as young as first grade would probably find this tale perfectly engrossing.

In Fortunately, the Milk, mother travels to a conference leaving dad in charge, and he promptly hits a crisis at breakfast time when there is no milk for the cereal or tea. What follows is a lengthy wait by the children and when dad finally, finally arrives home with the milk, he regales them with a bizarre tale that is equal parts Baum's Oz, Douglas Adams, and Roald Dahl. The adventurous story moves along quite quickly, accompanied by Skottie Young's hilarious and outrageous illustrations.

Fortunately, this is a tale well worth recommending to a great variety of ages, anyone, in fact, who enjoys a fantastically funny bedtime story.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Rump - an interview

Elizabeth received a copy of Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin for Christmas this year. Since it's been high on many middle grade book lists this year, but I've yet to read it, I decided to feature it here in interview form. It's also worth noting that Elizabeth raved about it; Paulie read this when she finished and enjoyed it as well. Also, my father-in-law started reading it when we were visiting him at Christmas-time, and he enjoyed it so much that he bought a copy when we left so that he could finish it!

Can you give me a brief description of Rump?
In the book, your name is your destiny. When Rump was born, he didn’t hear his full name; he only knew his name as Rump. Since being called Rump, he’s had a bad destiny. Mean boys chase him down the street and throw stuff at him. His mother died, and he had to live with his grandmother. He’s been trying to find his full name, and by finding his true name find his true destiny. By the end, he found out that you can help control your own destiny not just your name or what other people think of you.

What ages would you recommend to read Rump
Pretty much anyone who could understand the story. 9 and up. Even adults would like this story.

How closely did Rump stick to the original Rumpelstiltskin story? 
Pretty far from the original fairy tale but they keep the basic story line.

What was your favorite part of Rump
That they could spin anything into anything…grass to silver…wool into yarn. And I liked that the yarn could dye while they spun using their emotions. One time, while someone spun, she became angry and the dye grew darker into a very dark deep purple, then as she calmed down, the wool lightened to a lavender.

Do you think Rump should have a sequel?
No. The story was finished, and I was satisfied with ending.