Category Archives: Books for Children

Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Maybe in Another Life

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Have you ever wondered how one decision can change your life? If you decide to cross the street at a certain time, does that affect your life? There was a lot of pondering about destiny and fate and what is or isn’t meant to be in this novel. Hannah is at club one night. She meets up with Ethan, a guy she had dated in high school. The book splits into alternating sections: one timeline where she decided to stay at the club with Ethan and one where she leaves with her friend to go home.

I really liked the premise. I enjoy the author and have read all of her books. I was very excited for this one to come out, and I finished it quickly. I would’ve preferred it to be a little less chick-lit-centric, but other than that, I enjoyed it. I like the idea of alternate universes, how each decision we make in life creates a different universe and that there are billions of possible universes where we are living different lives.

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

When You Reach Me

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This book was an interesting blend of historical fiction, mystery, and science fiction.  I can certainly see why it won the Newbery Award, since it is well written, pays homage to a “classic” children’s book, and has a nostalgia factor for the teachers and librarians who grew up in the 70s and 80s — especially with all the references to Miranda’s mom practicing for her appearance on the game show $20,000 Pyramid.  I suspect, though, that a lot of tweens and teens would find it difficult to really get hooked on this story.  I was curious about how things would play out in the end, but the story didn’t exactly keep me on the edge of my seat.

One day, as Miranda walked home with her best friend, Sal, he got punched in the stomach. The kid who punched him was new to the neighborhood and didn’t even know Miranda or Sal, so there didn’t seem to be any reason for the attack.  Even worse?  Right after that incident, Sal began to get distant . Miranda felt lost without Sal, since the two of them had been constant companions since their early childhood.  And then, when the hidden/”emergency” key to her apartment went missing and she found a strange note hidden in a library book, Miranda got understandably freaked out.  Especially since the author of the note seemed to know things about her — even things that hadn’t happened yet.

Fans of A Wrinkle in Time are sure to enjoy the way Miranda’s life experiences have parallels to that book and make her question the real possibilities of time travel.  I think there are enough details, nevertheless, that the story will still make sense to readers who aren’t familiar with L’Engle’s work.

Flunked by Jen Calonita

Flunked

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I have always loved fairy tales, though I have often wondered how it was that all the “big bads” got away with so much.  Why was it that no one ever stepped up and did anything about the people who abused their power?  Sure, Cinderella got away from her terrible stepmother — but why wasn’t her stepmother held accountable for the things she had done?  This story goes outside the box and brings a little bit of justice into the mix with the Fairy Tale Reform School.  The teachers at FTRS — such as Cinderella’s stepmother, the sea witch from the Little Mermaid, and the wolf from Little Red Riding Hood — are actually working to atone for their bad deeds.  Such a clever premise!

Readers are introduced to the intricacies of the FTRS via Gilly, a petty thief who has been sentenced to three months at FTRS.  As the child of a poor cobbler whose business has hit a rough patch, thanks to fairy godmothers producing glass slippers for the royal princesses, Gilly tries to justify her thefts as necessary for the survival of her hungry siblings.  As soon as she gets to FTRS, she tries to think of a plan to run away so that she can get back to taking care of her siblings, but her plan is thwarted.  Luckily, her attempted escape helps her to befriend another student, Jax, who is also friends with her roommate, Kayla.  The three students soon discover that the “formerly” villainous teachers might not be as reformed as everyone else believes and set out to discover what they’re up to before it’s too late.  I recommend this story to fans of Adam Gidwitz’ Grimm series.

Binky the Space Cat by Ashley Spires

I love Binky the Space Cat!  Binky is a well-fed black and white house pet.  He loves his family and he absolutely hates bugs – space bugs, that is.  His goal in life is to become a space cat.  When he receives notification that he has been accepted into the F.U.R.S.T. (Felines of the Universe Ready for Space Travel) program, he is thrilled.  Binky seems to think that space is outdoors and that bugs are space monsters, but never mind – with the help of his little cat toy Ted, he will succeed in building a space ship.  With a grade level of 2 to 5, for ages 7 to 10, this is one of those books that cat lovers of all ages will enjoy.  The illustrations are charming and there are additional entries in the series so fans can follow Binky’s further adventures – although the first book is arguably the best.

 

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

Walk Two Moons

I first thought about reading this book when I helped a student request it for her summer reading assignment about ten and a half years ago.  Since there was a wait list of students who needed it for their assignment, I decided not to add a hold for myself.  (I thought it would be unfair to the kids who really needed it.)  Every summer I thought to myself, “I need to remember to read that when summer is over.”  And, every year, I’ve had such a long “to be read” pile when summer reading ended that this book was added to my “I’ll read this book someday” list.  At the end of the summer this year, though, the planets finally aligned.  I only had one week left before I was on vacation with my family, so I wanted an audiobook short enough that I could finish it before the week was up.  Even though it was still summer reading season, this audiobook was available on OverDrive, and I went for it!

While taking a long road trip with her grandparents, Salamanca Tree Hiddle (aka Sal), tells them all about her friend Phoebe Winterbottom.  Via Sal’s storytelling, we learn about how difficult it was for Phoebe when her mom suddenly took off.  Though the circumstances were not the same as when Sal’s own mother left her, it was clear that talking about Phoebe’s situation helped Sal to process her own feelings.  Mary Stuart Masterson’s narration was fantastic, and the adventure and humor in the story helped to keep this book light when it could so easily have been a depressing read.

Countdown by Deborah Wiles

Countdown

In October of 1962, my mom and dad were 7 and 13, respectively.  They’ve told me stories of the old “duck and cover” drills they had to do in school and how frightened they were about the potential onset of a nuclear war, but I don’t think I truly appreciated what they went through until I listened to this audiobook.  Experiencing the 13 days of the Cuban Missile Crisis vicariously through a character in a book, even knowing how the entire thing ended, was enough to make me anxious.  I can’t imagine I would have fared well if I actually had to live it.  (I probably would have had panic attacks all day, every day!)  Such is the power of this extremely well-written book and it’s wonderfully produced audiobook.  I was curious how the scrapbook pages would translate in an audiobook, and I was very pleased with the way sound bites were interjected into the story and sometimes woven together.  (It actually reminded me quite a bit of the commercials in MT Anderson’s Feed.)

More striking than the anxiety this story induced, nevertheless, was the hope that it inspired.  One quote, in particular, made such an impression that I pulled over during my evening commute to write it down.  (Because my OCD self was concerned about accuracy, nevertheless, I found a print copy of the book.)

There are always scary things happening in the world.
There are always wonderful things happening.
And it’s up to you to decide how you’re going
to approach the world…
how you’re going to live in it, and
what you’re going to do
.”

Though Franny’s sister, Jo Ellen, was responding to Franny’s fear over the Cuban Missile Crisis, her words can truly be applied to any person’s response to any terrible situation.  And, especially since this book goes beyond the facts of the Cuban Missile Crisis to explore Franny’s relationships with her family and friends, I think this book has a much broader appeal than just fans of historical fiction.

Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Reality Shock!

Ripley's Believe It or Not

I find it rather amusing that my 9-year-old son can’t handle seeing tiny hairballs on the floor from his beloved pet cat, but that he was completely enthralled by the FOUR POUND tiger hairball (picture on pg. 9) that was the size of a basketball! Looking through these books with my son, I always alternate between fascination and disgust.  And even though my own disgust sometimes outweighs my fascination, there’s something magical about bringing home a book that makes your child jump up and down with excitement and beg for just a few more pages before he has to go to bed.

Some of the most fascinating items in this issue were:

  • the skateboarding mice who can even jump through a ring of fire (pp. 14-15)
  • a woman named Barbie Thomas who, despite losing both of her arms at 2 years of age, has gone on to compete in fitness contests (pg. 97)
  • the man who took a picture of himself every single day for 12 years — a total of 4,514 photos! (pg. 152)
  • the Canadian base jumper who, after becoming paralyzed in a 2004 BASE-jumping accident, now jumps in his wheelchair (pg. 175)
  • the pumpkin artists (pp. 208-209) who are capable of turning pumpkins into sculptures of ghouls, goblins, and monsters

And some of the more disgusting items were:

  • the bedside table made from an actual, stuffed sheep (pg. 29)
  • the Sufi holy man who used a sharp stick to practically gouge out his own eye during the Urs religious festival in Ajmer, India (pg. 41)
  • the short-horned lizards that squirt blood from their eyes as a defense mechanism to scare off predators (pg. 90)
  • the “snot shots” (pg. 201) from artist Ulf Lundin’s Bless You project, in which people sneezed at a camera without covering their mouth/nose… ack!

If you’re looking for a conversation-starting/engrossing book to share with a tween, the Ripley’s books are a pretty sure bet.