Kids Halloween Books Roundup 2017 Part Two

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 MORE HALLOWEEN FAVES

 

Herbert’s First HalloweenHerbert's First Halloween book cover image
Written by Cynthia Rylant
Illustrated by Steven Henry
(Chronicle Books; $15.99, Ages 2-4)

I’ll never forget my son’s first Halloweens. He was dressed up as pirate and ready to join the ranks with a seasoned pro, his older sister. But before we stepped foot out of the front door, a trick-or-treating ghost rang the doorbell. When we opened the door to offer candy, my son dashed behind me and refused to leave the house. Even the prospect of candy couldn’t get him to budge. I’ll hand it to the father in Herbert’s First Halloween, he has a gentle way about him to help ease his little one’s apprehension. As the story unfolds, “Herbert was not sure about Halloween.” Readers can see the reluctance in his eyes as Henry’s illustrations so warmly depict. At the same time, the passion and excitement about the holiday are written all over Herbert’s father’s face. He’s determined to make this first Halloween a special one for his son, even sharing photos of when he was young dressed up like a cowboy. Soon, Herbert’s more engaged, asking questions about costumes and his dad is all too happy to accommodate his son’s desire to be a tiger. On Halloween the pair encounter neighborhood kids in what is perhaps my favorite spread in the book. There’s something magical about that first time taking to the streets under the glow of street lamps, candy bucket in had, trying to figure out who is who behind the masks and zany outfits. Though it’s a pretty simple story, it’s totally age appropriate. There’s a genuine feel-good quality about Rylant’s prose when coupled with the old-fashioned picture book style off-white paper, choice of font and Henry’s charming artwork. When seeking a book to help lessen a child’s fear of Halloween, Herbert’s First Halloween, is a terrific tale to turn to.

 

cvr art Little Skeletons Canticos WorldLittle Skeletons: Countdown to Midnight/
Esqueletitos: Un Libro Para Contar En El Dia De Los Muertos
Written and illustrated by Susie Jaramillo
(Canticos; $19.99, Ages 4-8 )

Whether you’re interested in buying this accordion style bilingual board book for Halloween or Day of the Dead, it won’t matter to your kids. They’ll love the artwork, the book’s layout and reversibility from English to Spanish and vice versa, the interactive clock face and the rhythm of the tune which when translated from Spanish is called “The Skeletons Come Out of the Tomb.” The origins of this song remain a mystery, but that won’t stop parents from finding a fun beat to share with youngsters when reading out loud. The book comes packaged in a sturdy box and while all the interior artwork is black and white, there’s a touch of color on both the box and book covers. Count up to 12 with Esqueletitos and teach the time too with the help of all the adorable skeletons. In addition to the two-books-in-one feature, there’s also a free sing-along app to accompany the book. 

In a Dark, Dark Room And Other Scary Stories: In a Dark Dark Room and Other Scary Stories I Can Read 2 cvr image
I Can Read! Level 2/Guided Reading Level J
Retold by Alvin Schwartz
Illustrated by Victor Rivas
(HarperCollins Children’s; $16.99, Ages 4-8)

This hard cover book is labeled a high interest story for developing readers. It instantly took me back to my days at camp where scary stories were always told around a crackling fire and then afterwards I was the only one who couldn’t fall asleep. Why do counselors do that? Anyway, depending on your child’s fear level, you may want to consider reading this in the daytime. There are some classic tales that I recognized and got such a kick out of reading again, especially as engagingly recounted by Schwartz and illustrated vividly by Rivas. For example, The Green Ribbon is the tale of a charming girl whose head was attached to her body with said ribbon which is why she never removed it until her deathbed. Perhaps the most chilling of the seven poems and stories is The Night it Rained. Here’s a story many adults may recall about a driver picking up a rain soaked young boy and loaning him his sweater only to discover the next day that the boy was a ghost. There’s also a foreword and back matter about the author, the illustrator and where the stories originated.

 

Cover art from Ella and Owen The Evil Pumpkin Pie Fight Bk 4Ella and Owen: The Evil Pumpkin Pie Fight (Book #4)
Written by Jaden Kent
Illustrated by Iryna Bodnaruk
(Little Bee Books; $5.99, Ages 6-8)

Ella and Owen are twin dragons who, while seeking adventure, always end up in some kind of mess. In this, the fourth book in the series, the siblings end up being out at night while trying to escape some trolls. A light in the distance, however, doesn’t end up leading them to safety. Instead it turns out to be from candles belonging to the nasty Pumpkin King. Exasperated, the siblings just want to find a way out of the Terror Swamp and so the orange body-less guy offers them a deal. If they can recover his body from the local witch, he’ll give them an escape map. Jaden Kent, a writing team of two authors, has the dragons encounter obstacle after obstacle while peppering each of the nine brief chapters with humor and language first and second graders will enjoy. I mean what kid doesn’t like the idea of a pumpkin pie fight? Bodnaruk’s spiced up this pumpkin themed story with plenty of black and white illustrations to entertain young readers and help them feel accomplished as they fly through this book. There’s a surprise love angle to this particular volume providing LOL moments with dialogue such as, “Okay. This just got really weird,” that kids will relate to. A bonus is a sneak peak at book #5 Ella and Owen: The Great Troll Quest which I’m sure will be as engaging as this one.
Find more Ella and Owen books here.

 

Don’t Read This Book Before Bed: Thrills, Chills, and Hauntingly True StoriesDon't Read This Book Before Bed cover image NatGeoKids
Written by Anna Claybourne
(National Geographic Kids; $14.99, Ages 10 and up)

If you want to get older kids scared, this 144 page book should do the trick. After deciding I wasn’t brave enough to read the stories rated over a five in the Fright-O-Meter provided, I braced myself, chicken that I am, and made my selections using that number as my guide. For a tween who gets spooked easily, suggest something else, but if they’re the sort who truly finds the creepy stuff cool, the two-paged table of contents can provide a tantalizing tease with titles like The Real Life Dracula, Telepathic Twins, Island of the Dolls and The Green Children of Woolpit. NatGeoKids.com does these almanac-style paperback books better than anyone else with their great images, creepy fonts and fascinating factoids that your kids will want to share with friends. Pages six and seven explain how to use the book which was where I learned about, and was grateful for, the Fright-O-Meter. On top of the visual fright fest and the accompanying tales, there are six quizzes scattered throughout the book, a great way for kids to catch their breath which they may not have realized they were holding. My recommendation: bring this book to a Halloween party. Why be the only one awake at night? Seriously though, this one’s a year round treat.

Read part one of this Halloween roundup here.

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

Shackles From The Deep by Michael H. Cottman

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SHACKLES FROM THE DEEP:
Tracing the Path of a Sunken Slave Ship,
a Bitter Past, and a Rich Legacy
by Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael H. Cottman
(National Geographic Kids; $17.99, Ages 8-12)

Starred review – Booklist

cover image off Shackles From The Deep by Michael H. Cottman

 

A fascinating and fast read, Michael H. Cottman’s compelling Shackles From The Deep will open middle grade readers’ eyes and minds to the abhorrent “international business” that was the slave trade. In 22 brief but gripping chapters, Cottman, an avid scuba diver, goes in search of the dark history behind the 17th century slave ship called the Henrietta Marie. Through diving below the surface and delving above the surface with the help of a dedicated team of professionals, Cottman learns not only about “the bitter past” that shrouded the ship, but about himself and the African people forced into slavery who could very well have been his ancestors. 

Possibly the world’s oldest slave ship discovery, and certainly the oldest in North America, the Henrietta Marie and its bounty of watch bell, iron cannon, and iron shackles helped shed light on the inhumane industry that ripped West Africans from their homes, separated families, and brought them against their will to places such as Barbados and Jamaica to work on plantations. This slave ship, found accidentally while looking for a different wreck, had been torn apart during a hurricane off Key West in Florida in the 1700s. 

Cottman’s journey to find answers about the individuals who captained the ship, commissioned the ship’s slave cargo, and made the shackles and weapons on board led him to three continents over four years. And though he was never able to find definitive proof of who exactly might have been carried below deck in wretched conditions for months on end, Cottman did meet a family in Jamaica whose roots likely could be traced back to the Henrietta Marie if those records were available. One of the most moving parts of Shackles From The Deep was when Cottman travelled to Senegal and toured Gorée Island. There he visited the House of Slaves, built in 1526, and home to the infamous Door of No Return named as such because those enslaved Africans leaving through it never ever came back.

Cottman felt it was important to retrace the route the Henrietta Marie would have taken and, by taking us along with him as engaged readers, we quickly learn why. Tearing families apart and treating them like animals made no sense as one missionary’s account detailed:

The English take very little care of their slaves and feed them very badly …The overseers make them work
beyond measure and beat them mercilessly…and they seem to care less for the life of a Negro than a horse.

Ending his journey in Africa where it all began after those earlier visits to Barbardos, Jamaica and England, provided a way for Cottman to return through that Door of No Return on behalf of all the unfortunate souls who never had the chance. The story ends, having come full circle from the initial discovery, with the author’s visit to an underwater memorial at the wreckage site of the Henrietta Marie. 


“I had learned that the site of the wreck is a place where I am never really alone,
a place where I feel connected to my past and ancestors. I had learned that lasting
friendships can be forged––regardless of racial backgrounds––even while exploring a sunken slave ship.”

There are several ways for readers to approach this well-written narrative nonfiction novel. From the sheer storytelling perspective, it is completely absorbing and satisfying, in fact I read it in one sitting. As a page turning detective novel, it’s rich in detail with Cottman’s journalistic abilities highlighted as he asks the right questions and tracks down individuals around the globe to piece together the puzzle that is the Henrietta Marie. When children read Shackles From the Deep they will gain a better understanding of slavery and the dehumanization of people that was perpetrated for 300 years, and hopefully be the force to prevent such cruelty from ever happening again.

Click here to visit Michael H. Cottman’s website.

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

 

 

 


Weird but true! FOOD from National Geographic Kids

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Weird but true! FOOD:
300 bite-size facts about incredible edibles!
by National Geographic Kids
(National Geographic Children’s Books; $7.99, Ages 8-12)
PLUS: A Rafflecopter Giveaway for three books!

WeirdbuttrueFood-cvr.jpg

It’s very easy to understand the ongoing popularity of the Weird But True! fact-filled paperback book series. They’re inexpensive, portable, packed with fab photos, and are always excellent entertainment. Likely “weird” is a word you hear often at home from your 8-12 year olds, so why not give them this book to help them refocus their energy onto things genuinely incredible or unusual.

Intart-WBTPG45.jpg

Interior spread from Weird but true! Food, National Geographic Children’s Books, ©2015.

 

Here are some facts I found fascinating, funny and/or very WEIRD:

1. Mycophobia is the fear of mushrooms. Use that next time you play hangman!

2. The Carolina Reaper is the world’s hottest chili pepper.

3. Breakfast waffles inspired the co-founder of Nike to put a bumpy tread on running shoes.

Intart-WBTPG67.jpg

Interior spread from Weird but true! Food, National Geographic Children’s Books, ©2015.

4. Los Angeles recently passed a resolution encouraging people not to eat meat on Mondays. I live in L.A. and didn’t even know about this one!

5. On the International Space Station 93 percent of the astronaut’s sweat and urine is recycled into drinking water.

 

Intart-WBT-FoodPG89.jpg

Interior spread from Weird but true! Food, National Geographic Children’s Books, ©2015.

 

Consider giving your tween a copy of Weird but true! Food as an alternative to electronics. It’s educational, interesting, and a great way to amuse friends. How many of us can honestly say we knew that the Ancient Egyptians “ate ham and eggs for breakfast more than 3,000 years ago,” or that it takes “about 350 squirts from a cow’s udder to make one gallon of milk?” Udderly weird but true, and that’s okay! In fact, did you know that “okay” is the most understood word in the world? Yep, but you’ll have to pick up a copy of Weird but true! Food: 300 bite-size facts about incredible edibles! to find out the second most understood word.

Click here for the Kids’ National Geographic website for games, videos and more.

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

RAFFLECOPTER GIVEAWAY – See below. Enter then follow us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/goodreadswithronna for an extra 3 entries into the giveaway. GOOD LUCK!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Animal Poetry for Kids from National Geographic

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We could not let April end without reviewing this fantastic collection of poems. It’s entitled National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry: 200 Poems with Photographs that Squeak, Soar, and Roar! (kids.nationalgeographic.com, $24.95, ages 4-8) which is just how we like our animal poetry to be.  Here’s the bonus – the book is edited by J. Patrick Lewis, the U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate.

For fellow Californians, included is an evocative Haiku inspired by Bali Sardines from L.A. local, Joan Bransfield Graham:

Dancing through the waves,
ballerinas of the blue —
the ocean their stage.

You’ll also find poems from UCLA graduate and award winning poet, Janet S. Wong; Pulitzer Prize winning former U.S. Poet Laureate, Kay Ryan; Betsy Franco; and Kenn Nesbitt to name a few. Seeking poems about hamsters and honey bees? You’ll find ’em! Want to read about Roosters and Raccoons? They’re there, too. Eager for elephants? Look no further.

This treasury is really not just for 4-8 year-olds because the photographs are simply spectacular and ideally suited for each poem. I’m certain that even teens and adults will find themselves amazed at the variety of details, colors and moods conveyed in all 186 pages.  Of course all the great poets are here to enjoy, and easy to find with the Poet Index: from Aiken to Sandburg, Frost to Madox Roberts, and Rosetti to Whitman.  The helpful Subject Index, Title Index and First Line Index make this book indispensable for students. There’s also a super spread devoted to writing poems and another for resources, but the poems themselves are what we’re here for.  Broken down into manageable sections, this collection divides the poems into an intro called Welcome to the World. This is followed by other sections called The Big Ones, The Little Ones, The Winged Ones, The Water Ones, The Strange Ones, The Noisy Ones, and a Final Thought in closing.

I have nothing but praise for this marvelous book that is not only an homage to the animal kingdom and its beauty but to every word used to describe it.

-Reviewed by Ronna Mandel


Dare to Explore!

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Our family always loves the yearly National Geographic Kids Almanac and the newest edition is no exception. With fab photos, facts, and an overall coolness quotient of 10, what’s not to love?

The best thing about the latest almanac is that it’s kept up with technology and offers readers a chance to watch neat new videos, play games and get even more facts via a QR Code you can scan with a smart phone or iPod Touch. Dinosaurs like me can also go the website.

So spend summer break the right way by packing a copy of the National Geographic Kids Almanac 2013 ($13.99, National Geographic Children’s Publishing, ages 8 and up). It’ll keep your entire family entertained while on the road or at home. It will also be a great conversation starter, a dispute resolver and something to keep returning to throughout the year.

Broken down into themed sections so fact hungry kids can devour the book in small chunks, the book begins with Your World 2013 then moves into the ever popular Amazing Animals pages packed with amazing pictures and tons of information. Did you know, for example, that there are 10, 158 vulnerable or endangered species in the world?  The list even includes the American crocodile!

Next comes the Awesome Adventure section where kids can learn about different fields of exploration, hone up on their photo taking skills and even get tips on writing an engaging essay. Following is Culture Connection, Super Science and some Fun and Games. The Wonders of Nature section covers world climate, natural disasters, biomes, oceans, coral reefs and so much more.  I appreciated the Going Green section with its out-of-this-world green inventions including Hotel in The Clouds lazily making its way across the Atlantic from New York to London in 37 hours. Talk about a room with a view!

The book ends with History Happens and Geography Rocks saving the best for last in my adult opinion, but kids will be delighted from start to finish. With 500 photos, maps, crafts, fun facts and a slew of other interesting tidbits, National Geographic Kids Almanac 2013 is an adventure on every page.

By the way, I just learned that London is the only city to host the Olympics three times.