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.
When I help children choose novels to read, I always try to find out what they are interested in. They may not be able to tell me that they like mysteries or fantasies or historical fiction, but they can usually tell me if there is a topic that fascinates them. Then I can choose a book that may get even a non-reader engaged.
So this week, here are some fiction suggestions for kids ages 8+ who love to cook.
PIE($16.99, Scholastic Press, ages 8 and up) by Sarah Weeks
After Alice’s Aunt Polly dies, everyone in town wants the secret recipe for her award-winning pie crust. Aunt Polly left the recipe to her nasty cat, Lardo, and left Lardo to Alice. When Lardo is catnapped, Alice must find Lardo and the missing recipe. A sweet, engaging story–complete with pie recipes at the end of every chapter.
THE CANDYMAKERS ($16.99, Little, Brown Books For Young Readers, ages 9-12) by Wendy Mass
Reminiscent of CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, but for a slightly older audience. Four children apprentice in the Life is Sweet factory, to create new candies for a competition. But unlike Charlie and his cohorts, this group of kids has to get along to succeed. Appealing to both boys and girls, this book is for kids who can read a longer novel comfortably. Mass has published several wonderful novels including A MANGO SHAPED SPACE and 11 BIRTHDAYS.
NEIL FLAMBE AND THE MARCO POLO MYSTERIES ($12.99, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, ages 10 and up) by Kevin Sylvester
Teenager Neil Flambe is the star of this new series. He’s a top chef and the secret weapon of Inspector Nakamura in solving crimes with a culinary twist. Young foodies will enjoy that the cooking isn’t limited to baking or candy and may be inspired to cook one of Flambe’s meals. Good choice for 5th-8th graders.
CLOSE TO FAMOUS ($16.99, Viking Juvenile, ages 10 and up) by Joan Bauer
Newbery winner Joan Bauer is a favorite pick of mine for 5th and 6th grade girls who want to read about teenagers, but who aren’t sophisticated. Bauer always delivers teenage girls that younger girls can look to for examples of how to handle challenges.
In this story, Foster, who dreams of having her own cooking show, gets a job baking for a local coffee shop. But she’s got challenges in front of her, including learning how to read. If your daughter loves CLOSE TO FAMOUS, then try Bauer’s HOPE WAS HERE. Ages 5th grade-teen.
Please visit the Flintridge Bookstore today to pick up your copy of these great books, buy gifts, enjoy their extensive selection of other great reads and relax over a great cup of coffee. Also visit the website at www.flintridgebooks.com to keep up-to-date with story times, author events and other exciting special events.
Want Your Kids to Read? Be a Reader–a message from Catherine Linka
If we want our children to eat their peas, we get there by eating our own peas with enthusiasm. We model the behavior we want so they will follow our example.
So if you value reading, you need to model it. And that means, making time to read in front of your child. Turn off the TV, the computer, your phone and sit down and read where they can see you–not just in bed after the kids are down for the night.
Andrew Smith, teacher and author, insists that it is especially important for fathers to model for their sons that reading is masculine. He says that boys “ look at what their father does, and what their older brother does and what their best friends do.”
Be a reader to raise a reader.
Books for Fantasy Lovers Who’ve Read Everything
THE UNWANTEDS($16.99, Aladdin) by Lisa McCann – My pick for kid-pleasing. At 13, kids are tested and sorted into Wanted and Unwanted and the Unwanteds are taken off to be executed. But it turns out that what looks like a prison is really a sanctuary that takes creative, artistic, musical kids and turns their talents into strengths when the Wanteds invade. Gentler than HUNGER GAMES, but with lots of action. (ages 8+)
EMERALD ATLAS($7.99, Yearling)by John Stephens – Our community read One Summer-One Book for kids. A little like NARNIA, a little like A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS, a little like LORD OF THE RINGS. The first in a trilogy. The second is due this fall. For the strong reader 9+. It has three brave kids, an evil countess, a magical book, terrifying Screechers and donut-loving dwarves. Funny and scary. (now in paper, ages 9+)
NO PASSENGERS BEYOND THIS POINT($6.99, Puffin)by Gennifer Choldenko -Now in paperback. Unlike Choldenko’s other realistic fiction, this story follows three children who tumble into a fantastical world where their every desire if fulfilled–except their desire to leave. Appealing to both guys and girls. (ages 10+)
GHOST KNIGHT($16.99, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)by Cornelia Funke -Set in a present day English boarding school, a boy calls upon the ghost of a famous knight to fend off the other ghosts who are threatening him. Funke’s setting is real and many of the ghost knights she introduces were real people whose brief bios she includes at the end. (ages 10+)
THE FALSE PRINCE($17.99, Scholastic Press)by Jennifer Nielsen -A conniving noble trains four street urchins to impersonate a missing prince. Only one will survive the training as the noble attempts to take over the throne. Twists and turns and double-crosses. Lots of action. So well-written an adult would love to read it aloud. (ages 13+)
Today’s guest reviewer is 4th grader Naomi. She’s 9 years-old, likes all animals, mermaids, wants peace in the world, and has eight pets. Read her review of the latest book in the Just Grace series, one of her faves!
This great new book is about two girls, ‘Just Grace’ and Mimi, who each get one surprise. Just Grace’s surprise is from her dad and Mimi’s surprise is from an adoption center. The main characters, Just Grace and Mimi. seem to be about 10 years-old. Just Grace is blonde, wears pigtails and has pink cheeks. She is eager, happy, and has willpower and empathy, qualities I like in a main character. Mimi has wavy hair. She is also eager but gets sad easily. I liked Grace best. I think other girls would enjoy reading this book, especially if they like dogs and baby brothers!
Nothing really similar to this book is going on in my own life. However, the plot is believable and I would read more books by this author. Essentially the story is about Grace getting a dog, and the adoption of Mimi’s 4 year-old brother. Plus there are the comics that Grace writes concerning things going on in her life. I’m really glad I read Just Grace and the Double Surprise. Just a note: some art in the book was childish because Grace draws it (in her comic) but the art the author drew was good. Add this book to your holiday wish list.
In six short illustrated chapters, Bad Kitty Meets The Baby ($13.99, Roaring Brook Press, ages 7-10) author/illustrator Nick Bruel manages to get in so many laughs both with his story and drawings that we are left wanting more. No wonder there are more than 2.5 million Bad Kitty books in print. Thankfully there’s www.Badkittybooks.com for videos, games, activities and more to hold us over until the next book!
Meet Kitty, Puppy and Uncle Murray. Mom and Dad are heading off with lots of luggage and soon will be bringing home a new addition to the family, so Uncle’s in charge. Kitty does not like surprises since the last slurpy one was Puppy. Who is this creature? What is this creature? Cat? Dog? We know it’s a baby but the fun is following along with Bad Kitty as she tries to figure things out. There’s also Uncle Murray’s Fun Facts, the Pussycat Olympics and a whole lot more shenanigans so suited for elementary-schoolers who enjoy fast moving, slapstick humor with a cast of endearing characters who will simply crack you up!
Good Reads With Ronna is giving away one Bad Kitty Meets The Baby along with a Bad Kitty Plush to one first place winner and one book each to two second place winners. To enter just click here and provide your name, address and telephone number. Please remember to write ‘Bad Kitty’ in the subject line. For rules click here. The giveaway ends on Tuesday, July 5, 2011 and winners will be notified on July 6. Good luck!
What’s the best part of going back to school? Is it the new clothes, the supplies or simply the excitement of seeing old friends and the prospect of making new ones? I’ve left one very important part of a new school season out – the learning! And who couldn’t stand to learn a new thing or two? I’ve gathered together a bunch of books I hope you will want to share with your kids. They cover a range of these topics so there really is something for everyone. Dive in and let me know what you think.
A particular favorite of mine is the latest offering from Tad Hill, creator of the New York Times Bestseller Duck & Goose. For those of you with pre-schoolers and Kindergarten-aged kids, How Rocket Learned to Read (Schwartz & Wade Books, $17.99, ages 3-7) will inspire. If your children are already readers, this charming tale will bring back those early days when every word was a new adventure. Rocket the darling dog just wants to nap, but a little yellow bird has set up school at the same spot and is determined to teach all the letters of the alphabet to the reluctant Rocket. Soon Rocket is pulled into the story yellow bird reads aloud and waits with baited breath for more, but the bird has flown away for the day. It doesn’t take long for Rocket to become a star pupil, sounding out each letter of the alphabet, “With a G and many Rs as they spelled Mr. Barker’s growl. GRRRRRRRR!” Share the excitement beginner readers experience with this adorable book.
The Exceptionally Extraordinarily Ordinary First Day of School (Abrams, $15.95, ages 4-8) by Albert Lorenz is just the kind of book kids clamor for. It’s clever, creative and incredibly, enormously imaginative. Filled with fun facts (about things like paper and spitballs, anthropomorphism and more!) alongside the narrative, and enhanced by hilarious illustrations, this is a book that will be read again and again. I found myself scanning every corner of the pages, each time delighted at finding new things. While the speech bubbles may at first be a distraction, they really do add to the over-the-top effect the author aimed for. The book introduces us to new (could he be nervous, too?) student John,the librarian Mrs. Dewey and a plethora of interesting schoolmates and teachers. Apparently his parents now seek an ordinary school and life since John’s previous school (a castle) was anything but! Do we believe John or simply go along for the raucous ride? Will your Parents’ Night ever be the same? What a wild and weird way to begin the new school year!
How lucky for us to have Teacher’s Pets (Candlewick Press, $6.99, ages 5 and up) by Dale Ann Dodds with illustrations by Marilyn Hafner. An enjoyable read-aloud story both parents and children alike will relate to. There’s always one teacher like Miss Fry, kind, caring and extremely patient, but when she tells her students that Monday is sharing day, she soon finds herself caretaker to a host of pets the kids have brought to school then left behind. The classroom’s a virtual pet shop what with the rooster, tarantula, and boa constrictor, but somehow the cricket Moe chirrups its way into Miss Fry’s heart making this story as heartwarming as it is humorous.
I was happily tricked by 1 + 1 = 5 and Other Unlikely Additions (Sterling, $14.95, ages 5 and up) by David LaRochelle and illustrated by Brenda Sexton. Try figuring out these quirky equations and you and your kids will have a blast looking at math in a whole new light. The bold and colorful artwork by Sexton adds to the winning formula in a book about thinking “outside-the-box” that will not disappoint. If this doesn’t get kids thinking up fun new math games, I don’t know what will. When does 1 + 1 = 1? When you take 1 a.m. and 1 p.m. which then equal 1 day.
I am constantly in awe of pop-up and flap book artists and engineers who create new ways to make what could be an average alphabet or counting book outstanding. Robert Crowther delivers with these two new titles from Candlewick Press. ABC: The Most Amazing Hide-and-Seek Alphabet Book and 123: The Most Amazing Hide-and-Seek Numbers Book(Candlewick Press, $12.99 each, ages 3 and up). These interactive titles are great in the way Crowther has configured everything. For example, pull down the tab for “O” and you will see an owl, and pull just a little more and watch the eyes move. I love that added feature! What I like best is that I know with the great illustrations and creative approach, kids won’t be bored and with the counting book, and will actually spend time counting. Be prepared parents, the numbers book goes up to 100!
Charlesbridge Publishing brings us two winning books. The first is Lola Loves Stories(Charlesbridge, $6.95, ages 2-5) by Anna McQuinn with illustrations by Rosalind Beardshaw, about a little girl who needs no encouragement to read and head off to distant lands, and Kindergarten Day USA and China – A Flip-Me-Over Book(Charlesbridge, $7.95, ages 4-6) by Trish Marx and Ellen B. Senisi , ideal for teachers and classrooms or simply for parents and kids who are curious about what it’s like to attend school on the other side of the world. And though far apart in miles (and 12 hours ahead in time zones), the average school day is really very similar. While one story is about using our imagination and all the great places it can take you, the other deals with real people and real places and teaches some Mandarin Chinese in the form of pinyin using the English alphabet to sound out the characters. Both books are upbeat and ideal for reading together or alone. Part of the proceeds from Kindergarten Day USA and China goes to The Global Fund for Children supporting the world’s most vulnerable children and youth.
It’s 1970s Boston and forced busing is in place in Busing Brewster (Knopf, $16.99, ages 6-10) by Richard Michelson and illustrated by R. G. Roth. “Ain’t no Negroes at Central,” Brewster declares after learning that he’ll be attending first grade at Central, a White school and not his local elementary because of mandatory desegregation. With his Mama all positive about the advantages of Central, Brewster figures a school with a pool can’t be all that bad despite an hour’s bus ride. A rock thrown at the bus window by protesters and two policeman standing guard may not seem encouraging, but when older brother Bryan gets into a spat, a day of detention in the library turns out to be a blessing in disguise. Enter Miss O’Grady, the librarian, who sees all children’s potential regardless of race or ethnicity, and makes Brewster promise to come back, and maybe even consider running for president one day.
Here’s my $64,000 question: Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten?(Balzer & Bray, $16.99, ages 4-8) by Audrey Vernick with illustrations by Daniel Jennewein. Check off the following list of criteria: Does your buffalo have a packpack? Is he worried about not being good with scissors? Can your buffalo cooperate and take turns? Well I think he’s ready! You’ll turn the pages quickly as you eagerly await what hilarity ensues as the big dude experiences Kindergarten including snack time – and you do know how Buffalos eat their food, don’t you? Can your Buffalo pull off a huge, shiny grin on picture day and charm all your classmates? You decide!
Older kids should be on the lookout for George Brown, Class Clown: World’s Worst Wedgie in bookstores Oct. 7 (Grosset & Dunlap, $4.99, ages 7-9) by Nancy Krulik and illustrated by Aaron Blecha, but in the meantime they can read the first two in the series George Brown, Class Clown: Trouble Magnet, and George Brown, Class Clown: Super Burp! If you are not familiar with our man George, he’s the disaster-prone titular ten-year old character spun-off from the popular huge selling Katie Kazoo, Switcheroo chapter books. In the most recent book, George is seized by uncontrrollale super burps. Whether it’s do-si-doing and swinging your partner or having to stay with the lunch lady during recess for sneezing snot on someone’s lunch tray or making the loudest belch in history, it seems everyday at Edith B. Sugarman Elementary is filled with new challenges for the class clown.