WHAT WE’RE READING
WEDNESDAYS WITH ONCE UPON A TIME
Always Time for Books –
A Roundup of Time Related Reads
Books have a way of making time do funny things; slowing us down as we settle into the story and speeding up whenever a clue is about to be revealed. And of course, there is never enough time to read all the books we want to read. There is so much power in the way that books and readers interact with time and we wanted to highlight some of our middle grade favorites here at Once Upon A Time.
The slow and careful buildup of love and trust is the star in Saving Winslow (HarperCollins) by Sharon Creech. A delightful family read-aloud that skillfully weaves empathy, compassion and family into a beautifully realized story, universal, timeless and, dare I say a new classic, in the mold of Charlotte’s Web (without the talking animals). Ten-year old Louie is determined to save a sick miniature donkey even though his past animal endeavors haven’t turned out well. His parents caution him but Louie names his new charge Winslow as a sign of faith and determination in the small creature’s survival. Louie uses his plight as a way to connect with his brother’s absence while serving in the Vietnam War. Saving Winslowcaptures an innocence and steadfast belief in miracles that are real and close at hand. ★Starred Reviews – Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal.
Buy the book here: https://www.shoponceuponatime.com/book/9780062570703
Everything can change in just a few days. In Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish (Viking BYR), Pablo Cartaya shows how much time and place impact who you are. Marcus Vega may look like the average bully—large, silent, and overwhelming—but inside he is just a boy too big for the quiet kids and too small to fill the shoes of his absent father. Marcus is suspended from school for protecting his brother from a bully and decides his time off would be better spent searching for answers from his father in Puerto Rico. With his mother and brother in tow and only a few days to accomplish his goal, Marcus goes down a path of misadventure leading to understanding. A fast-paced journey of self-discovery about the role of family, friendship, and home. Perfect for readers ages 10 to 14. ★Starred Review – School Library Journal. Buy the book here: https://www.shoponceuponatime.com/book/9781101997260
For fantasy adventure readers that want to be blown away, Timeless: Diego and the Rangers of the Vastlantic (HarperCollins) written and illustrated by Armand Baltazar is for them. First, the physical book is 400+ pages and weighs a massive 2.5 lbs! But that’s because there are over 150 full color illustrations throughout which pull the reader along the fast-paced story. And second, the premise—our world is 300 years in the future, has collapsed for a minute, and in that time reconfigured with past, present and future worlds meshed all together – without cell phones, electricity. “Diego’s middle school hallways buzz with kids from all eras of history and from cultures all over the world.” Dinosaurs are with robots (mechanical) and tall ships, sort of steam punk but not.
Diego is 13 and a mechanical whiz. He and his family live near the coast in New Chicago, a reimagined Chicago and its waterways. Diego has concocted a cool mechanical submarine in order to go to school! The plot goes crazy when Diego’s dad is kidnapped by a villain from Roman times. He’s aware that Diego’s dad is a mechanical genius who can help mechanize the robots and turn the world back to the proper time. Diego’s friends go with him as he tries to find his father. Help from his pilot mother and the Rangers set up this first in a series. I LOVED the vast world building, fast pace and those one-of-a-kind illustrations. Truly, this is what I think could be the next Harry Potter type series which will capture the imaginations of adventure fans all over and for years to come. Best for ages 9 and up. ★Starred Review – Publishers Weekly. Buy the book here: https://www.shoponceuponatime.com/book/9780062402363
Looking for a good way to spend your time in addition to reading? Meet Armand Baltazar, creative mind behind Timeless on Friday, October 19th at 7 pm for a special book signing and costume contest.
How exciting to be participating in this cool Click’d giveaway!
Disney-Hyperion sent Good Reads With Ronna a copy to
check out, and is partnering with us
on this great giveaway opportunity for readers!
Scroll down to get the lowdown!
GENERAL DETAILS …
Click’dby Tamara Ireland Stone
Release Date: September 5, 2017
Recommended for ages 9+
FIND OUT MORE …
Visit the Official Click’d Site here.
on Twitter here.
on Instagram here. Like Disney Books on Facebook. Spread the Word UsingHashtag #ClickdBook
HERE’S AN EXCERPT TO GET YOU PSYCHED!
Read an excerpt from Click’d here. Get ready to see how Click’d will click with you.
ABOUT THE BOOK …
New York Times best-selling author Tamara Ireland Stone combines friendship,
coding, and lots of popcorn in her fun and empowering middle-grade debut.
Allie Navarro can’t wait to show her best friends the app she built at
CodeGirls summer camp. Click’d pairs users based on common interests and
sends them on a fun (and occasionally rule-breaking) scavenger hunt to find
each other. And it’s a hit. By the second day of school, everyone is talking
Watching her app go viral is amazing. Leaderboards are filling up!
Everyone’s making new friends. And with all the data Allie is collecting,
she has an even better shot at beating her archenemy, Nathan, at the
upcoming youth coding competition. But when Allie discovers a glitch that
threatens to expose everyone’s secrets, she has to figure out how to make
things right, even if that means sharing the computer lab with Nathan. Can
Allie fix her app, stop it from doing any more damage, and win back the
friends it hurt-all before she steps on stage to present Click’d to the
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Tamara Ireland Stone (www.TamaraIrelandStone.com) is the
author of Time and Time Again, a collection of her two novels Time Between Us
and Time After Time, and the New York Times best seller Every Last Word.
A Silicon Valley-native, she has worked in the technology industry all her life,
first testing Atari game boards in her parents’ garage, and later, co-founding
a woman-owned marketing strategy firm where she worked with some of the
world’s largest software companies. She enjoys skiing, hiking,and spending time
with her husband and two children. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.
THE PRIZE …
One (1) winner receives: a copy ofClick’d Please note that this Giveaway is open to US addresses only. The Rafflecopter giveaway will end on 10/11/17 at 12:00a.m. PST. Prizing and samples provided by Disney-Hyperion. Thanks for stopping by and good luck!
If you’re not a winner, you can find this fab book for $16.99 at your local independent bookseller.
We know you’re going to love getting Click’d!!
Kids Who are Changing the World by Anne Jankéliowitch With Photographs by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, (Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky, September 1, 2014, $14.99, Ages 9 and up), is reviewed by Dornel Cerro.
“I want my children to see living camels,” Cameron Oliver, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, p. 16.
This inspirational collection of stories about children who are leading the way in creating environmental change is a must-have for adults and educators working with children on project-based learning and community service projects.
Jankéliowitch reports on forty-five children from all over the world, briefly and engagingly describing their inspiration, the process for turning ideas into action, successes and failures, and advice. Readers will see a range of ideas and actions such as creating biodiesel fuel from cooking oil, planting trees, repurposing old computers, raising funds for well construction, and so much more.
The children in these stories show remarkable creativity, ingenuity, and determination. Some children used their passion for music, art, and theatre to carry their message to their community and the world, discovering that the dreams and aspirations of a child in Palo Alto, California can resonate with a child in Ethiopia. Talk about going global!
Yann Arthus-Bertrand is a photographer, journalist and environmentalist. His dramatic photographs (seen in here in black and white) powerfully illustrate the dangers of the environmental challenges discussed in the book. Highly recommended for ages nine and up, although the process can be adapted for younger children.
Yann Arthus-Bertrand, President of the GoodPlanet Foundation, writes in the forward: “Kids have an amazing ability to come up with exciting ideas and carry them out with remarkable energy.” This book will serve not only as inspiration, but as a guide to the process of creatively designing a project that will benefit the planet.
Anne Jankéliowitch is an environmental engineer currently living in France. Her nature conservation work experience includes the WWF and Greenpeace. She’s also written several other books.
The Lost Planet (Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan, $15.99, Ages 9-13 ) is the first novel in a series by Venice, CA author Rachel Searles. I met this friendly and imaginative debut fiction author earlier in the year at a local event sponsored by Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeehouse where Searles read from her book and explained its premise.
Readers will be introduced to Chase Garrety, a 13-year-old boy who wakes up on another planet with a head wound. Chase soon meets Parker and though they start off fighting, the boys realize they need to take care of each other. Together Chase and Parker meet an android named Mia who becomes a huge help to them in this fast-paced, sci-fi adventure. The story unfolds in the course of a week in which Chase, without giving any spoilers, learns some unusual stuff about himself. So, if you’ve got a child who thrives on the science fiction genre that’s packed with action and adventure as well as interesting characters such as assorted aliens, a mysterious benefactor, and a Federation-like organization, then this is the book for them.
I asked Searles about when she began writing. She told me that she’s been writing since she was six years old. The Lost Planet actually took her four years to write, but the good news is that the second book in this series has already been written! “Writing a book,” according to Searles, “is like putting lots of puzzle pieces into the right spot, with lots of re-writing.” In fact she said her original outline for the novel changed so much since she had her first idea for the story. That’s not hard to imagine when you learn that the idea for a space story was first planted in her mind in 2006. It then took her two years to write the first 100 pages. In 2008 Searles came up with The Lost Planet concept, and in 2010 she tried to write 1000 words a day. She then spent a year and a half revising. And which character, I wondered, did Searles most relate to? Parker. Now you’ll just have to read it for yourself to understand why.
Here’s a different kind of list to kick off 2014. Please read what reviewer and bookseller Hilary Taber has entitled her Author Shout Out for Good Reads With Ronna.
We always look forward to Hilary’s take on what’s selling in her store and can just picture her standing up on a stage, behind a podium, announcing all these wonderful winners.
The Top Ten Authors That I Most Admire,
Why You Should Know About Them,
& Why I’m Giving Them a Coveted Bookseller Award
Well, folks, I’ve officially read over 400 hundred children’s books! This has given me a real perspective on the craft of writing, and what makes an author someone whose books I will recommend without hesitation. I’ve gathered together my top ten authors, and the reasons why I am their fan for life. Certainly, personal taste has a lot to do with it, but so does a winning streak of books. In each of these excellent books the writing (and sometimes the art as well) speaks for itself in terms of excellence. Each author, in their own way, has hit their stride with every book they write. So, from board books to young adult, here are my top ten author shout outs. I only wish I had a lovely statue with a bookseller on top in gold to give to each of you, but hope this star will suffice.
His latest book, Animal Opposites, was a wonderful collection. Each illustration was so finely done. There is pairing not just animals, but also opposite characteristics such as quiet and loud. Each pop up element was so beautifully done, and so pleasing to the eye. His board books are colorful, eye catching, and beautifully drawn. In this author and artist’s work, beautiful art meets a lively story. Strawberries Are Red remains my very favorite. Petr, you rock, and your books are this bookseller’s dream come true for the two and up set!
Can we ever have too much of Mo Willems’ books? I think not. Every book is so full of humor that appeals to both adults and children. Willems books are always story time hits. Do you know how rare that is? It’s very rare that I am able to sell a book that is more guaranteed to bring a smile and a laugh to the entire family. My favorite books are in the Pigeon series, but the beginning reader series of Elephant and Piggy has earned a special place in my heart for being such fantastically engaging beginning reading. Thank you so much, Mo, for your humor. Thank you for sharing it with us, and by sharing it you make reading so much fun!
Kate, how can I tell you how much your books mean to me, and to all the children to whom I’ve sold them? Your books are so full of hope at an age when children are just beginning to learn that the world needs their hope. I’ve never met a child who wasn’t just in love with your work. The care you put into each book makes it shine like stars in the night sky. When I read a book written by you, I admire the effort you put into each book, and also the love. God bless you, Kate! My favorite titles include Because of Winn-Dixie, and Kate’s latest book, Flora and Ulysses about a girl named Flora who discovers a new best friend in the form of a squirrel, named Ulysses who has super powers, can write poetry, and can type!
Will I ever tire of reading about the charming Penderwick family? I really don’t think so. Every book is filled with adventure, and the reassuring presence of family. I’ve loved seeing each character grow and change to become the person that they can most fully be. Plus, there’s Hound, the Penderwick’s dog! I adore Hound. Little Women comes to mind as a possible “ancestor” of the Penderwick series. I so appreciate that every child can recognize some part of themselves in each of the sisters in the family, just as you can in Little Women. There’s something for everyone here in this lovely series of the changing lives of this most eccentrically beloved family. This is a family who affirms that the person you are is fantastic. This type of personal affirmation is present throughout the books. In fact, you should be free to be yourself!
Maybe it’s because fall is my favorite season. Maybe it’s because the weather gets a bit cooler here in L.A. The street where I live gets tons of trick or treaters beginning about five o’clock with the littlest monsters, penguins, princesses and elves making an appearance before bedtime. The creative costumes never cease to amaze me. One year I recall we had a Mozart, a rain cloud and a laundry basket! I look forward to every shouted TRICK OR TREAT?! In honor of Halloween I’ve put together a varied selection of books to sit down and peruse after they’ve emptied bags and examined their hauls.
WHERE’S BOO? (A Hide-and-Seek Book) by Salina Yoon, Random House Books for Young Readers, $6.99, Ages 0-3. This interactive board book will attract little ones with its velvety-faced kitty on the cover and velvety tail at the end. Parents can help children solve the mystery of where Boo is hiding beginning with a jack-o’-lantern and ending with a door in this die-cut 18 page guessing game. The pictures are sweet not scary, a perfect introduction to All Hallows Eve!
VAMPIRINA BALLERINA HOSTS A SLEEPOVER by Anne Marie Pace with illustrations by LeUyen Pham, Disney-Hyperion, $16.99, ages 3-5. Last year’s Vampirina Ballerina was so popular she’s back again and this time she’s hosting a sleepover. While this picture book is not strictly for Halloween, what better time of year than right now to share a vampire tale? Dad helps with homemade spider invitations, Vampirina tidies up, the menu is prepared and the sleepover party begins! Full of the same delightful detailed artwork featuring all the necessary vampire accoutrements including caskets and headstones plus all the not-to-be-missed facial expressions courtesy of Pham, this latest picture book is something to sink your teeth into. Pace throws in puns galore so parents can get a giggle, too. There’s even a pull-out spread to add to its appeal. This sleepover’s a lids down success.
GHOST IN THE HOUSE by Ammi-Joan Paquette with illustrations by Adam Record, Candlewick Press, $15.99, Ages 3-7. What works so well in this picture book is that it’s not only a cumulative counting book beginning with a little ghost, but it’s a fun read-aloud as well with its catchy rhythm and rhyme. Ghost in the House manages to mix a slightly spooky premise and lighten it with a cute cast of characters including a mummy, a monster, a skeleton, a witch and a little boy. The bonus: No trick or treaters anywhere in sight makes it an ideal read for any dark and stormy night!
HALLOWEENHUSTLE by Charlotte Gunnufson with illustrations by Kevan J. Atteberry, Two Lions/Amazon Children’s Publishing, $16.99, Ages 4-8. Get ready to boogie to a funky beat that will get your youngsters chiming in. Skeleton’s in a dancing mood, in fact he’s got a whole crew of hustling creatures following his lead, but things keep tripping him up, first a crooked crack, then a cat and finally a zombie’s foot. Here’s the catchy refrain your kids will latch onto:
What a clatter!
Spine is like a broken ladder!”
There’s a hoppin’ Halloween party where Skeleton enters a dance contest, but can he keep it all together? Let’s see what a friendly skeleton girl and a little super-strong glue can do!
OL’ CLIP CLOP, A GHOST STORY by Patricia C. McKissack with illustrations by Eric Velasquez, Holiday House, $16.95, ages 6-9. This haunting, well-paced and tersely written story is one you’ll want to tell by a roaring fire while huddled next to your child. The climax, where there’s usually a fright, though not as scary for an adult as it may be for a child, is deeply satisfying. The good part is that it’s actually a happy ending because it’s good riddance to the villain, mean John Leep. This well-off, but miserly and greedy landlord has a cruel fate planned for the widow Mayes of Grass Hollow. He’ll demand the rent in full or evict her, throwing her out into the night on a cold Friday the thirteenth, 1741. Velasquez’s artwork of dark upon dark sets the ominous nighttime mood, with the lightest color being the white of widow Mayes’s cap and mean Leep’s linens. The clip, clop, clip, clop sound of Leep’s horse Major gets more and more frightening as Leep feels he is being followed on his way to the widow’s house. What’s in store for the stingy man as leaves the desperate widow wondering if she’ll lose her home? Will he make it home alive?
I haven’t read a book so quickly in ages. Was it the fun script format or was it the main character? Both! In 10-year-old protagonist Lulu Harrison, author Elisabeth Wolf has created an immensely likable and relatable character despite her being the daughter of two Hollywood celebrities. Lulu narrates the story using a screenplay she has written rather than a traditional journal, but before that readers get a good feel for what Lulu’s all about in a prologue Wolf’s provided.
In that prologue Lulu explains that she’s not your typical L.A. tween. In fact she calls herself a “Not Fitter Inner.” Despite living in posh Bel Air, California, Lulu says her life’s not all “pampering and parties.” This alone drew me into the story, but then what kept me reading was how genuine Lulu felt. Unlike her trend-crazed older sister, Alexis, Lulu really just craved her busy parents’ attention, the one thing she found most difficult to get. Certain to get even the most reluctant readers engaged, Lulu in LA LA Land is the kind of novel I imagine one friend passing along to another so they can share and discuss it like they do with an episode of their favorite TV program.
This delightful romp around L.A. includes lots of well-known boulevards and boutiques, perfect for locals and L.A. wannabes. The descriptions of shopping jaunts seem spot on although frankly, I’ve only ever been inside one of the “in” stores Wolf mentioned. I’m still traumatized by the memory of the three figure price for a t-shirt! What works with Lulu in LA LA Land is that Lulu is also not into all the glam of the Hollywood scene despite it being her parents’ profession. Instead, Lulu enjoys her garden, the simple pleasures in life like baking, devouring a delicious taco, and spending time with her best friend, Sophia.
The premise of Lulu in LA LA Land is that Lulu decides, on her sister’s urging, to throw a SPA-tacular birthday party for herself to get her parents interested in showing up. What Lulu didn’t plan on was her party’s date conflicting with the movie industry’s biggest event, the Oscars. Add in the fact that Alexis wanted Lulu to invite only a certain type of girl and that type did not include BFF Sophia and you have two major dilemmas Lulu must handle so her party doesn’t become a SPA-disaster!
Today’s interview is with L.A. local author, Elisabeth Wolf, who has also signed a copy of Lulu in LA LA Land for our giveaway. The giveaway begins today, Friday, October 11, 2013 and runs through Sunday, October 20th ’til midnight. One winner of (1) one copy of Lulu in LA LA Land– will be selected via Random.org and notified on Monday, October 21st. Send your name and address to Good Reads With Ronna by clicking here. Be sure to write Lulu Giveaway in the subject. For an extra entry, please LIKE our Facebook page by clicking here.
Q & A With Elisabeth Wolf
GRWR:When did the story idea first hit you?
EW: The idea of writing Lulu hit me twice. First, during the countless hours reading to my children, I realized that New York had Eloise. Paris had Madeline. Los Angeles, however, didn’t really have anyone! I checked in bookstores and only found a book about a dog in LA. Second time happened thanks to my daughter visiting the set of TV show Sonny With A Chance and watching an episode tape. Before she left, the producer gave her a copy of the script signed by the actors. For the next week, she sat in bed reading and re-reading the script. Late one night, prying it from her hands, I had my Eureka moment! What better way for a girl to write about her life in LA than to write it as a screenplay?!
GRWR:At your book launch you mentioned that you and Lulu Harrison, the book’s protaganist, shared some common traits. What are they and why did you choose those in particular?
EW: I made Lulu a little like me and, of course, a little better! Here’s what Lulu got from me: love of gardening, especially growing native plants, fruits and vegetables without using too much water or any chemicals; love of nature, bird watching, protecting trees, and keeping beaches clean; love of spicy, cheesy foods, especially Mexican food; and a love of baking and experimenting in the kitchen. She also has a healthy disinterest in keeping her hair looking picture perfect (to put it mildly). I chose those traits because gardening, nature, and creative cooking are all, actually, very LA; however, when girls hear or read about LA, it’s mostly focused on shopping, celebrities, Hollywood Boulevard, and grooming and glamming (which is, of course, why I had to add the part about never bothering to brush her hair).
GRWR:Have you always wanted to be a writer or did you do something else before you decided to write Lulu in LA LA Land?
EW: I just talked to the librarian at Warner Avenue Elementary School to arrange a visit. She and I chuckled because I attended that school, but spent most of my time there daydreaming about being a writer. The problem for me, however, is that I really never knew how to be one. So, I worked for many years in politics and government as a communications director and press secretary. Finally, one day I decided, “Hey, if I could write for politicians, I’ve got to also have the ability to write for children.” Both types of writing require clear, straightforward ideas, simple sentences, and a point of view.
GRWR:Is it hard to pick out all the different names of the characters and their hobbies or jobs?
EW: Actually, it wasn’t hard. I read lots and spend time listening to children and grown-ups from all backgrounds and places. I store up information from conversations. Things like names and activities or hobbies that make people happy or sad, swirl around my head all the time.
GRWR:When you were growing up, did you know any kids who felt ignored by their parents and who tried outrageous ways to get their parents’ attention like Lulu has to do to make her parents stop and take notice?
EW: Sadly, I knew lots of kids whose parents were too busy doing things to notice when their son or daughter needed more than superficial parenting. Once I was at my friend’s house, and she suggested that I cut her hair. I told her I didn’t really know how (I’d only given my dolls haircuts), but she said it didn’t matter. I thought she better check with her mother, who was home though we had not seen her all afternoon. My friend came back after a few minutes and said that her mother said, “fine.” I snipped per my friend’s instructions and the result was a botched bob. Needless to say, her mother had never approved the plan and the mother’s first look at her daughter’s new hair got her full attention.
GRWR: What part of the book did you enjoy writing the most? Which was the hardest part?
EW: Actually, the part I liked writing the most was when Lulu repairs her relationship with her best friend. Apologizing is difficult at any age so learning how to say you’ve done something wrong when you’re young is important. I had fun figuring out how Lulu should apologize, but not make it so heavy that fixing a mistake was something kids wouldn’t ever try.
The hardest part to write was making a mean girl turn nice. Writing about children acting unkindly to each other is difficult but necessary because it happens daily. Bullies come in all shapes and sizes. Turning a bully into a buddy took some reorganizing of plots and scenes. It also required me to think very hard about why children act in mean ways to each other.
GRWR:Did your daughter help you get a lot of the tween vernacular correct?
EW: One afternoon I was driving my daughter, Emmie, and my friend’s daughter, Amelia. I asked them for words and expressions they used at school. They hurled so many at me, I had them stop and start texting them to me asap!
There is NO way I would know the expression, “Totes Adorbes” without their help.
GRWR:Who were your favorite authors when you were a kid?
EW: My favorite writers then are still among my favorites now. I would still read any of their books. Enid Blyton. She wrote the Famous Five series. The fact that the stories took place in the wild English countryside made them even more fantastic. E.B. White. His imagination and his language made me want to be a writer.
GRWR:Which of your contemporaries is your go-to author today?
EW: Jeanne Birdsall. The Penderwicks Series. Sheryl & Carrie Berk. The Cupcake Club.
GRWR:How long did your entire writing and publishing process take from concept to finished book?
EW: At first, everything took a LONG time. I did not treat writing like my job. Once I decided to focus on this project and really work, everything went quickly. It was about a year from the time Sourcebooks wanted Lulu to the when they released it.
GRWR:What is Lulu’s next adventure?
EW: Lulu in Honolulu. Her parents are making a movie on location and Lulu just may have to save the entire production.
GRWR:What tips can you share with kids interested in writing, but with no story idea in mind? How do they choose what to write about? Where should they look for inspiration?
EW: Deciding what to write can be so hard it keeps you from starting to write. Either you have too many ideas or none at all. If you have NO ideas for a story, come up with a feeling. Mad. Scared. Fun. Sad. Think about that feeling. Think about what causes that feeling in you or others. Doing that, can help you come up with a story idea.
I have always had the opposite problem. I have too many ideas floating around. Always was and always will be a daydreamer.
For a long time I wanted to write a story about a girl who sells make-up in New York. Her brother is a spy and is kidnapped in India. She goes to rescue him. I could never start. I realized the problem was: I’d never been to India. I’d never lived in New York. My brothers are the most honest, open people and couldn’t spy a sleeping puppy without giggling. Oh, and when it comes to make up, I don’t know the difference between blush and eye shadow. One day, rather than linger over a story based on things I knew nothing about, I decided to write what I knew: being a girl in LA can be tough for the Not-Fitter-Inner.
Author Christy Jordan-Fenton got the inspiration for her true stories When I Was Eight ($9.95, Annick Press, Ages 6-9) and Fatty Legs: A True Story ($12.95, Annick Press, Ages 9 and up) from her mother-in-law, Margaret Pokiak-Fenton. Both books are based upon the story of Margaret’s experience at a residential school as a child – When I Was Eight is a picture book, while Fatty Legs is a chapter book.
Margaret is a tall, curious Inuit girl from Banks Island, situated high above the Arctic Circle. After her older sister, Rosie, returns from a year at a residential school far from home in the Inuvik Region of the Northwest Territories, Canada, Margaret begs her parents to let her attend school, too. She so desperately wants to learn to read, but Rosie warns Margaret of the cruel nuns who cut her hair and made her do chores relentlessly. Yet still, Margaret eventually talks her parents into letting her attend the school after her eighth birthday.
On her first day there, Margaret quickly learns her sister was right, as the nuns make her cut off her braids and do chores. She misses her family desperately, hates the food and wonders why she ever wanted to attend in the first place. One witch-like nun in particular, named the Raven, singles strong-willed Margaret out and makes her do more chores than the others girls and is very unfair and cruel to her. Part of the girls’ uniform requires that they wear thick stockings to keep their legs warm. But one day, the Raven passes out grey stockings to all the girls in the school except for Margaret, who is forced to wear bulky, bright red stockings. The other girls laugh and torment Margaret, calling her, “Fatty Legs.” But rather than suffer any longer, Margaret does something unusually brave to stand up for herself.
When I Was Eight
The picture book offers younger readers a simpler, less detailed version of the story, yet depicts Margaret’s fears and challenges at the school incredibly well. I like that the book introduces different cultures and places to young readers and shares the universal theme that we all experience both as children and adults – fitting in. It also delves deep into the importance of being able to read well. The illustrations by Gabrielle Grimard are excellent and original in style, adding great dimension to the story.
The more I read the chapter book, the more hooked I got on the story. Without sugar-coating the truth about Margaret’s emotional abuse by the Raven, the author tells the story in a way that’s easy to understand, so real, yet not too terrifying for the targeted age of the readers. Margaret’s courage and determination to learn will make readers feel extra close to this likable protagonist and will be able to relate their own personal challenges to hers in some way.
It would be extra special to buy both of these affordable books for your child so he or she could read the picture book in early elementary school and the chapter book when a bit older. The fact that these wonderful, culturally rich books are based upon a true story make them treasures worth keeping.
As the mom of a pianist, I can tell you that my daughter loved reading about famous composers from a young age. In middle school she wrote a research paper on Beethoven and another on James P. Johnson, a jazz musician. I remember picking up and getting hooked on the books she checked out of the library about these composers. But now that I have read Verdi for Kids: His Life and Music, with 21 Activities, ($16.95, Chicago Review Press, Ages 9 and Up) I realize just how much those other books were lacking.
Written by Helen Bauer, Verdi for Kids takes readers on a glorious journey through the life and times of Italian opera composer, Giuseppe Verdi, born in 1813. The well-written forward by renowned opera singer, Deborah Voigt will make you not only want to read the book, but also want to learn more about opera in general.
The publication of this title marks the 200th anniversary of Verdi’s birth. He was the shy son of an innkeeper, and by the age of seven his parents got him a well-used harpsichord. Young Giuseppe took to the instrument so well that he mastered it quickly. Because his parents wanted to give their son the best education possible, both academically and musically, they sent him to live with a family friend in Busseto. He began to compose around the age of 13, had private music teachers and later attended the Milan Conservatory.
We learn of Verdi’s many hardships as an adult – the loss of his daughter, son and wife as illnesses plagued Italy. He worked through his grief by composing music and later traveled to Paris where he met and fell in love with a soprano named Giuseppina Strepponi. Verdi served on the first Italian Parliament and later becomes a senator, all the while still composing music.
There are wonderful activities with full instructions scattered throughout the pages of the book, such as making your own pasta, solving an opera word search, learning to read music, painting a poster to advertise an opera and even sketching a costume design for an opera. Kids will enjoy the many extraordinary old black and white photographs, drawings and offset boxes with detailed information about people and places.
This book is fascinating in that it not only details the life of a famous composer, but also gives insight into what life was like in Italy during the 1800s. I like the fact that the activities are well thought out and are both educational and fun. As with all other Chicago Review Press books, the author never talks down to the reader, rather she enlightens and inspires. Every member of the family will enjoy reading Verdi for Kids. It would make a great addition to your home library.
This Belongs To Me: Cool Ways to Personalize Your Stuff (Running Press Kids, $12.95, ages 9 and up) by Anna Wray is a new DIY book that will help any tween or teen find fun new ways to express their individuality. With the fab 14 projects featuring step-by-step instructions, it’s so easy for kids to customize clothes, accessories and even things in their bedroom.
So kids, say good-bye to boring shoes and shirts and hello to Doodle Sneakers or a Bar Code T-Shirt. Yep, here’s a way to stand out in a crowd. Pick a project, get your supplies ready and pretty soon you’ll be wearing a unique work of art. It’s time to revisit masking tape and get creative with empty space. Plus the book includes plenty of blank pages where you can sketch your ideas before trying them out. I like the top tips each project offers in a gray box because sometimes we just don’t think outside the box.
Try out an assortment of design techniques such as graffiti, stenciling and collage (my personal fave). You may even come up with a way to combine several techniques in one project. The best part is that since it belongs to you, you’re in charge.
My must-do project is the lampshade and, in addition to being inexpensive to make, it allows me, as the artist, the opportunity to make a shade to match any one of my sheet sets, quilt covers, curtains or go completely wild and design something totally new and exciting. I’m still in the sketching stage on that one, but I am very inspired. Kids will be, too!
If you are a regular reader you may have noticed that Debbie Glade is hopelessly addicted to reading science books for kids. Today she reviews a special book that is a must-have for any curious child’s library (ages 9 and up). You can buy it in time for Earth Day – April 22, 2013.
I’ve often wondered what scientists of earlier years would think about the environmental challenges we face in the world today. After reading Friends of the Earth: A History of American Environmentalism with 21 Activities ($16.95, Chicago Review Press, Ages 9 and up) I learned that even scientists of long ago encountered many of the same earthly challenges we face today.
The book begins with environmental observations dating back to the very first Americans – Indians or Native Americans – who spoke about protecting forests and taking care to protect natural resources to leave the earth unharmed. I learned that Ben Franklin willed money to be used after his death (1789) to build a pipeline for fresh water for Philadelphia because polluted drinking water was the cause of great illness at the time. Did you know that the Sierra Club was founded in 1892 by John Muir and Robert Underwood? Learned that, too! And thanks to Teddy Roosevelt, many national parks were established in our country to protect our wildlife and natural resources. The very first Earth Day was established in 1970, the same year the Clean Air Act was passed. This era marks the beginning of what is referred to as “modern environmentalism.”
Author Pat McCarthy introduces readers to 11 key people who made great contributions to the environmental movement, starting with James Audubon, whose love of painting birds helped to educate the world. His Birds of America was published in four volumes in the 1820s and 30s, featuring 497 different species of birds. The cost of printing these volumes was astronomical as each of the illustrations was engraved on copper plates. Most of the funds were raised through subscriptions. The National Audubon Society was established in 1905. Among the many other early environmentalists covered in the book are Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), who was inspired by the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson and who would become one of his closest friends, and Cordelia Stanwood (1865-1958), a botanist, bird lover, photographer, teacher and prolific writer.
My favorite environmentalist in the book is Marjory Stoneman Douglas whose respect for the Florida Everglades led to her penning the famous 1947 book, Everglades: River of Grass. Before her book was published, it was commonly believed that the Everglades was a meandering, worthless swamp that should be drained. Of course we now know that there is no other place on earth like the Everglades, and there is great treasure in the abundance of endemic plants and animal species found there. (Miami is my home and I will forever be amazed by the wildlife of the Everglades.) What I admire even more about Douglas than her dedication to the environment is that before 1920, she helped pass laws in Miami to make it mandatory that poor black families had toilets and bathtubs in their homes, and she also set up a fund to provide milk to babies whose families could not afford to by it.
A photo I took in Everglades National Park on a hike in February, 2013
In addition to the featured environmentalists in the book, there are many side stories about other influential and fascinating people as well as 21 fantastic activities for kids to try. From building a compost pile and journaling like Thoreau to making an organic bird feeder and turning salt water into drinking water (by use of the sun), young readers will delight in trying these activities. The last chapter of the book is entitled, “Where Do We Go From Here?” Author McCarthy touches upon the most pressing environmental issues of our time – global warming, deforestation and pollution. There are also many valuable resources in the back of the book.
Friends of theEarth is the highest quality educational book, one that just may inspire a young person to put his or her environmental concerns into action and pursue a quest to help save our precious planet. Not only is it the perfect resource for celebrating Earth Day, but it is ideal for any day, because we should all be Friends of The Earth and make every day Earth Day.
Reviewer Debbie Glade, who has always been fascinated by wind power, jumped at the chance to read and review this educational non-fiction book.
Adult Americans are all aware of the concerns associated with our energy consumption and dependency on fossil fuels – oil, coal and natural gas. The Wind at Work: An Activity Guide to Windmills ($16.95, Chicago Review Press, Ages 9 and up) by Gretchen Woelfle is a fabulous fact-filled book that educates young readers on the past, present and future of windmills as an efficient form of renewable energy. This is the Second Edition of the book, as it has been revised and expanded to include the technological advances of windmill energy that have taken place since the first edition in 1997.
The author begins this thorough, 145-page book with an introduction to the history of wind power in Europe and just how wind is naturally created (by the warmth of the sun). Did you know that windmills have been around for more than 1,000 years? There are many different types and purposes of windmills, too. And in this book the author describes modern windmills as “new versions of an old idea.” Fortunately more and more of these power sources can be found throughout the USA and the rest of the world.
I was fascinated to learn about the life of windmillers and the many challenges and hazards they faced associated with running and caring for mills. Equally interesting is how these energy sources have been used on American farms. Did you know that windmills used to be sold in mail order catalogs likes Sears Roebuck? There is a lot of information about inventors and how windmills have changed over the years. From milling grain to pumping water generating electricity and other forms of energy, the windmill has been an invaluable resource throughout its history.
The book includes a nice collection of black and white photographs, many of which are historic. There are also 24 excellent activities associated with the topic of windmills. Some of the highlights include: Spend a Day Without Electricity, Make a Wind Sock and Wind Vane, Create a Windmill Paper Collage. In the back of the book are valuable resources including a list of windmills in the USA.
Understanding how wind technology has changed in just the past 40 years gives us insight into how it can help shape our future. Who knew there was so much to learn about windmills? Despite being a reliable source of energy, wind power can never be our only source of energy, mostly due to wind speeds varying greatly. But after reading The Wind at Work young readers will truly understand that we are making progress challenging our dependency on fossil fuels as renewable, efficient solutions like windmill power already exist.
As with all Chicago Review Press Kid Series books, parents and teachers can enjoy and learn from them as much as children do. These books make us all smarter, and I for one am super glad they exist.
A Young Scientist’s Guide to Faulty Freaks of Nature ($14.99, Gibbs Smith Publishing, Ages 9 and up)) is not like most science books you’ve seen for kids. This particular book teaches children that scientists do make mistakes, that we can all learn from them, and that in fact some are actually very interesting indeed!
The book starts with a little bit of cheeky humor, which just made me want to dive in and read more. There are four chapters including Fascinating and Fearful Discoveries, Catastrophic Chemicals, Agricultural Fiascoes and Man Versus Nature. Each of these chapters has pages with different topics, many with titles so catchy that you cannot wait to read them. Try these on for size: Neanderthal, Not a Dumb BruteAfter All, The Worst Scientist in the Word Ever, A Poop and a Pee Makes Nice Coffee and Attack of the Blob – Seriously Slimy Sea Snot.
Okay, I know you’re dying to know about the Poop and a Pee topic, so I’ll give you a hint: It’s all about animal poop and their “uses,” and yes, it’s a bit gross and a lot funny. There’s even a poop bomb in that explanation.
Throughout the book are directions to 20 fun science projects kids can do at home like Make Your Own Sea Snot and Make Disappearing Messages. These activities are each followed by Science Factoids that essentially explain why the experiments works. There are also some simple, fun illustrations by Andrew Brozyna and so much fascinating scientific information.
What I love most about this book is the writing style of author James Doyle. He has a clever way of writing with great humor while also truly educating readers about scientific facts they will not likely learn in school. It’s wonderful that he touches upon the mistakes of past scientists, because mistakes are all a part of the learning process. It teaches young readers that it’s better to try and make an error than it is to do nothing. (Even Einstein made an error in one of his theories.) Another excellent aspect of this book is that basically every type of science is touched upon from chemistry and biology to physics and geology plus everything in between. Doyle is actually a geography teacher at a college in Belfast, Ireland and obviously is a very curious and knowledgeable nerd with a terrific sense of humor – and I mean that in the best possible way. I bet he’s an awesome teacher!
In the back of the book you’ll find websites and books for kids to check out to learn more. This will come in handy because after reading this fun science book, I’m sure your child will be even more curious about science and will want to read more. As I’ve said so many times before, we need more scientists in the world. Getting kids interested from a young age is the best way to ensure we’ll lure them in.
Continuing my summary of books by authors I met at the Flintridge Bookstore and Coffehouse’s recent Mother Daughter Book Party, I’d like to tell you about an intriguing, engaging sci-fi trilogy by San Fernando Valley author Jenn Reese.
A year ago Reese’s middle grade novel, Above World ($16.99, also available in paperback, Candlewick, ages 10 and up), was released and next month you can pick up the second in the trilogy called Mirage.
If the cover alone doesn’t pull you into Above World, the plucky main character Aluna certainly will. Aluna is a girl who lives underwater in a colony of mermaids. Mermaids? I was hooked already. All around, in what had been a safe, thriving environment, her fellow citizens’ breathing shells are beginning to fail and Aluna, is determined to discover why. So, despite many obstacles that make this an action-packed adventure tale as well as a sci-fi story, Aluna is going to find a way to save her people. Her best friend, Hoku, a boy one year her junior and a “techie” will join Aluna on her quest Above World, or the land above the sea. The pairing of female and male protagonists make this an ideal read for both girls and boys.
What’s fascinating about this novel’s premise is that the Kampii (Mer people) were all once humans now living in the ocean because the population Above World was getting too high. Reese has cleverly imagined a water world that seems to make sense. Plus the book is filled with so many other types of interesting people, animals and fish such as the Shark people whose habitat is lower depths than Fish. Reese described them as “less cultured,” so they have more adaptations and are a danger to the Kampii. Because I attended the special bookstore event, I was thrilled to learn a little bit about what new characters will be introduced in Book 3, hint: think Greek mythological creature. I am confident readers will agree that here is so much to like and enjoy about Above World that thankfully the story does not end with Book 1!
Today’s review comes courtesy of Julia, a 10-year-old 5th grader who loves polar bears, designing clothes and books, books, books. Her father queried her about the latest novel she read from best-selling author Rick Riordan.
The Mark of Athena (Heroes of Olympus, Book 3) by Rick Riordan ($19.99, Hyperion Books for Children, ages 9-11).
How would you describe the story to someone?
This story is about Percy, Hazel and Frank meeting Annabeth, Leo, Piper in New Rome and their journey to Rome.
What did you like the best in the story?
I liked that it is from each character’s point-of-view but not narrated by them, like the Red Pyramid books, and it’s filled with adventures, like when they met Narcissus, Echo and all of the love-sick nymphs.
Was there anything you disliked about the book?
The cliffhanger ending because I don’t like being left hanging.
Who was your favorite character in the book?
Annabeth – because I love how she is smart, crafty and fierce, and she stays strong in the worst situations. And Hazel because I love her back story.
Would you recommend Heroes of Olympus to people if they liked earlier Rick Riordan books?