Monthly Archives: November 2012

The (20)12 Reviews of Christmas

Just like last year, I’m going to use the first twelve days of December to review twelve books about Christmas, both religious and secular. See last year’s wrap-up (get it?!) for the 2011 list, and get ready for a brand new list to start on Saturday, December 1st–the (20)12 Reviews of Christmas!

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Parents magazine: Reads They’ll Relish, by Karen Cicero

The December 2012 issue of Parents magazine arrived in my mailbox today, and one of the cover stories was about the 10 best children’s books of the year! I thought that rather timely considering that I just compiled a list of great gift books for kids, but I was thrilled to find that one book I’ve recently reviewed and one author whose work I’ve featured showed up on the list!

Wonder, by R.J. Palacio, was listed as a top big-kid chapter book, and Sky Color, by Peter H. Reynolds (The Dot), was the featured big-kid picture book! Check out the rest of the list on pages 88-90 of the magazine or online here! (Apparently, you can get even more “kid-fave” book ideas in their tablet edition.)

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Themed Third Thursday: Give the Gift of Books

I know that I have forgotten many of the books that I loved as a child, and I’ve even forgotten what books GirlChild loved when she was a baby (until I happen to pull one out for BoyChild and find that he has the same fascination!), and I’m still working on being up on all the newest books for kids. For baby showers, I almost always get Dr. Seuss’s ABC (sometimes in both original and board book editions since the board book is different!) because that is one book I do remember loving! So for this latest Themed Third Thursday, I asked my friends and the Internet what books or authors children in different age groups might love. Here are some of the suggestions! (Links in green are links to my previous blog posts about that suggestion (which also have links to Amazon); regular links link to Amazon or Barnes & Noble).

Birth to Toddler:

The most important thing to remember is durability; always go for a board book if you can!

Preschool to Kindergarten:

  • Topsy and Tim series, by Jean and Gareth Adamson–These first experience books are perfect for the three to five year old range, and the fact that they’re published in the UK means that there are some fun cultural and vocabulary differences that you can discuss!
  • Ladybug Girl, by David Sonam and Jacky Davis–Ladybug Girl and the rest of the Bug Squad love their imaginary adventures, and so does GirlChild! The Amazing Adventures of Bumblebee Boy is another personal favorite from these authors, but all the books in the series are fun!
  • The Berenstain Bears series, by Stan and Jan (and Mike!) Berenstain–I loved these as a child, and any book in this series is a favorite to ask Grandma to read for all the cousins (ages 2-7!) right now!
  • anything by Mo Willems–Some favorites mentioned were Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus and other Pigeon stories, Knuffle Bunny, and the Elephant & Piggie books (there are tons!). The Pigeon and Elephant & Piggie stories are great for beginning readers, and they’re all fun for read-alouds!
  • Kate DiCamillo’s Mercy Watson series–Mercy Watson is a pig. 🙂 Written as a chapter book, each “chapter” is about three pages long, and at least one of those pages is a full-color illustration. Short chapters and short sentences make this good for beginning readers, but it is a fun read-aloud for younger children, too.
  • anything by Jan Brett–She has many books about Christmas and winter that are seasonally appropriate!
  • A Is for Angry: An Animal and Adjective Alphabet, by Sandra Boynton–This is a perfect age to teach a range of adjectives for emotions! (I know I get tired of everything being “mad” or “sad” all the time!)
  • the Llama Llama books by Anna Dewdney–Our family favorites are Llama Llama Mad at Mama and Llama Llama Red Pajama, but there’s even a Llama Llama Holiday Drama one!

Primary Grades/Early Readers:

  • the Skippyjon Jones series, by Judy Schachner–I find these books strange. Small children find them hilarious. So whose opinion matters here, anyway? 😉 Skippyjon Jones is a big-eared Siamese kitten who thinks he’s a Chihuahua, and he has all sorts of wacky daydreams/adventures. The favorite mentioned for a first-grade boy was Skippyjon Jones in the Doghouse.
  • Fluffy the Classroom Guinea Pig series, by Kate McMullan, illustrated by Mavis Smith–A parent and former first grade teacher says these are highly popular amongst that age group! Some titles include Fluffy Goes to School, Fluffy Goes Apple Picking, and Fluffy Meets the Tooth Fairy.
  • Junie B. Jones series, by Barbara Park–Some adults really, really can’t stand Junie B. and her grammatical issues. I admit that, as a teacher, she would have driven me bananas, but kids (even slightly older kids!) love to read about her craziness (and possibly live vicariously through her because even GirlChild is properly horrified by some of her behavior). I used Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business as a read-aloud to let my third-graders know I was expecting, and Junie B., First Grader: Jingle Bells, Batman Smells! (P.S. So Does May!) is a seasonal favorite!
  • I Can Read It All By Myself Beginner Books (you’ll recognize the Cat in the Hat logo), especially the ones by Dr. Seuss/Theo. LeSieg like I’m Not Going to Get Up Today and Wacky Wednesday. Dr. Seuss’s My Book About Me (a book for the child to complete with facts about him/herself) is another good Dr. Seuss title for this age!

Middle Elementary/Confident Readers:

  • Little House on the Prairie series, by Laura Ingalls Wilder–Based on the author’s experiences growing up in the American prairie, these books are a great way to get children into historical fiction!
  • The Boxcar Children series, by Gertrude Chandler Warner–I loved the first book of this series when my mom read it to us ages and ages ago, and the rest of the series has been a favorite in my classroom library in both third and fifth grades!
  • the Ramona Quimby books, by Beverly Cleary–I can’t believe I had forgotten these books! My mom read them all to us ages ago (she read out loud to us a lot!), but I still remember so many of the names (Who can forget Beezus, Howie, and Chevrolet?) and events (like Ramona’s dad losing his job) because these books and characters were so real to me! Ramona even inspired me to wear my pajamas under my clothes to school one day, although I still don’t know why I thought that was such a bright idea when it turned out so poorly for Ramona… 🙂
  • the Fudge books, by Judy Blume–Writing about the Ramona books reminded me of the Fudge books, starting with Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. While the first book focuses on older brother Peter, most of the rest of the series brings Fudge into the limelight. (NOTE: For those of you who remember these books from your childhood, be warned that reviewers on Amazon have noted that these are updated editions that change some of the clues that this book was written in a different era (one with record players and the like). These may not be the exact books you remember.)

Upper Elementary/Middle School:

  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, by Jeff Kinney–These highly popular faux journals are right up a middle-school boy’s alley. (I can’t be held responsible for what middle-school boys find funny!) They spawned a plentitude of copycat works, but these are the originals!
  • the Alex Rider series, by Anthony Horowitz–There are nine books in this British series featuring Alex Rider, a teenager who is drawn into the spy world after his undercover uncle dies mysteriously. Fans of action/adventure stories will enjoy this series.
  • Holes, by Louis Sacher–The Wayside School stories were personal favorites growing up, and while this book maintains much of the quirk of Sacher’s previous works, it is definitely a big step up. Important details that at first seem insignificant are sprinkled throughout, and there is a depth here that the Wayside stories certainly didn’t have–which might be why it won a Newbery in 1999. A great book for fifth grade and up!
  • The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, by Patricia C. Wrede–Called a “wickedly funny fantasy series,” these books did fractured fairy tales before Shrek made them mainstream. Cimorene is a princess who doesn’t want to be princessy…so she volunteers to be a dragon’s princess, and it’s the best choice she could have made for everyone involved. Hilarious for any fan of fun fantasy!
  • anything by Gary Paulsen–The ultimate survival storyteller for teens, Gary Paulsen was actually quite the outdoorsman/adventurer himself. His experiences and knowledge inform books like Hatchet and Tracker. Paulsen’s books are necessarily somewhat gritty due to the survival themes usually present, so keep that in mind if your reader is sensitive to that sort of thing.
  • Artemis Fowl series, by Eoin Colfer–Artemis Fowl, a billionaire, evil genius, Irish teenager, is the star of this series that is a wonderful mash-up of action/adventure, spy novel, science fiction, and fantasy–really speculative fiction!

This is by far not a comprehensive list, and I’m sure I left out plenty of absolutely great authors and titles that any child would swoon over–let me (and anyone looking for a good gift or just a good read!) know in the comments what I’ve missed!

(Also see my Christmas Wrap-Up post from last year featuring full reviews of twelve Christmas-themed books and a list of a good number more!)

(UPDATE: Introducing Paper Gains: A Guide to Gifting Children Great Books from Modern Mrs Darcy–posted by Modern Mrs Darcy and shared on Money Saving Mom, this (downloadable, free) list of books overlaps my list a good bit, but it has more ideas as well! I don’t necessarily agree with all the age levels, but the list is pretty good and worth checking out!)

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