Monday, December 14, 2009

Among the Hidden

By: Margaret Pearson Haddix
Published by: Scholastic/Aladdin Paperbacks
Released: March 2000
160 pages
Ages 8-12
4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis: Luke has never been to school. He's never had a birthday party, or gone to a friend's house for an overnight. In fact, Luke has never had a friend.

Luke is one of the shadow children, a third child forbidden by the Population Police. He's lived his entire life in hiding, and now, with a new housing development replacing the woods next to his family's farm, he is no longer even allowed to go outside.

Then, one day Luke sees a girl's face in the window of a house where he knows two other children already live. Finally, he's met a shadow child like himself. Jen is willing to risk everything to come out of the shadows — does Luke dare to become involved in her dangerous plan? Can he afford not to?

This was another one of our Scholastic Book Order purchases and one that I looked forward to reading simply because I do adore a good utopian/dystopian tale.

Luke is a third child, therefore he is one of these Shadow Children. He spends his days hiding in the house by himself, avoiding contact with windows or anything that could reveal his existence. After a few days of looking out of his vent, he notices a flickering light in one of his neighbor's windows when he knows that the house should be empty. This new possibility of a Shadow Child living next door is exciting for Luke and when he and Jen meet they form a friendship. But, not for long.

In a series of plot twists, we discover that Jen's father is one of the Population Police and he helps Luke gain a new identity and enroll in a school for the first time. Imagine what that would be like for a twelve year old?

What surprised me the most in reading this book was my ten year old's interest in a society where food shortages exist and the Population Police ensure that no family has more than two children. Perhaps it was the setting which is in the not too distant future or perhaps it's because we have three children in our own family (for the record, the ten year old is the first child, so he would've been safe) that caused him to have an interest in this book. Either way, I was happy because we've had many discussions on whether such a society could exist in the United States and why such laws do exist in other parts of the world.

And I have to admit that any book which causes this level of discussion is a good one in my opinion. But check it out for yourself. This is the first in a series of seven books.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Percy Jackson & The Olympians: Book 1 - The Lightning Thief

By Rick Riordan
Published by Scholastic, Hyperion-Miramax
Released June 2005
377 pages
Ages 10-14
5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis - After getting expelled from yet another school for yet another clash with mythological monsters only he can see, twelve-year-old Percy Jackson is taken to Camp Half-Blood, where he finally learns the truth about his unique abilities: He is a demigod, half human, half immortal. Even more stunning: His father is the Greek god Poseidon, ruler of the sea, making Percy one of the most powerful demigods alive. There's little time to process this news. All too soon, a cryptic prophecy from the Oracle sends Percy on his first quest, a mission to the Underworld to prevent a war among the gods of Olympus.

My son and I came across this series as part of his Scholastic Book Order. And as we turned the first few pages, I have to admit that we both were immediately drawn into the world of Percy Jackson. My ten-year-old loved the action and the plot and I adored the well written, 3D characters.

Percy, himself, is so very snarky and determined to find out more about his demi-god status. At every turn in his adventure, he meets more mythical creatures and gets into even more predicaments.

I now also have to admit to a bias, because I look for books that are not only entertaining but will also teach my children something alongside the plot. As we were approaching the end of the book, my son asked if we could get a book on Greek Mythology. Now that made my day. In fact the Percy Jackson Field Guide will be released on January 19, 2010 and you can pre-order it here. This book promises to be the ultimate guide for "gods, monsters and all things Percy."

If you're looking for a book that you can share with your Middle Grader and that both of you will love reading, please, check out the Percy Jackson series. The Lightning Thief is the first in a series of five books outlining Percy's further adventures. And guess what? The movie based on the first book, The Lightning Thief, will be released on President's Day, 2010. Check out the trailer below. It will definitely give you a good idea of the action level and mythology references.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Scholastic's Year In Sports 2010

Published by Scholastic
Released Dec. 1, 2009
192 pages
5 out of 5 stars

Product description: (from Amazon)
This must-have sports almanac will tell kids everything they want and need to know about the previous year in sports (Fall '08 through Summer '09). It includes major sports (basketball, baseball, football, hockey); "secondary" sports (golf, tennis, cycling, auto racing); and action sports (BMX, snowboarding, in-line skating).

SCHOLASTIC YEAR IN SPORTS 2010 is heavily illustrated with fabulous full-color action photos of the year's most thrilling moments and memorable athletes. For each sport, kids will find a list of team names (or the top players), team stats, championship game summaries (i.e., what happened in Super Bowl XXXXIII or the 2009 NBA play-offs?), records and milestones, award winners (i.e., who are the Cy Young Award winners of the last 10 years?), all-time stats, past champions, "Did You Know?" questions, great moments in sports, "Fast Facts," mini-bios of key personalities, and more.

This lively title offers kids quick, cool sports facts and isn't weighed down by lengthy blocks of texts. Just great information for sports fans of every age!

This is a must have book for any sports fan. It covers everything from The Top 10 Moments in Sports, to the MLB, NFL, NHL, College ball, to Soccer, motor sports, Golf and more. The pictures are brilliant, the the statistics and records listed are amazing. My 5 year old sports nut loved it. He's a bit young to read the book, but he knows everything about Baseball and Football that I can't get this book away from him.

There's nothing that isn't covered here. If you're not a sports fan and want to be, than I would recommend picking up this book. Once you're done reading it you'll be able to talk sports, stats and who's who's among the best players and teams in a variety of sports.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod

Wynken, Blyken, and Nod
By Eugene W. Field
Illustrated by David McPhail
Scholastic/CartWheel Books
Board book release November 2009

WYNKEN, BLYNKEN, AND NOD take children on a magical journey into the night sky where three fishermen sail in a wooden shoe, capturing the stars in nets of silver and gold and laughing with the moon. And when the nighttime adventure comes to an end, the wooden shoe brings the fishermen home to the real world of a child fast asleep.With soft illustrations and rhythmic rhyme, this lullaby poem will help energetic toddlers settle down and have sweet dreams as they snuggle into their beds.

This is a great retelling of the timeless nursery rhythm.
My children enjoy this story and love the great illustrations that capture the adventure of Wynken, Blyken, and Nod's bunny adventure as they sail off in a wooden shoe.

4 stars

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ivy & Bean - Why Opposites Work As Friends

By Annie Barrows
Illustrated by Sophie Blackall
Published by Chronicle Books
Published Date October 2009
Ages 9-12

Synopsis of the Series by the Author -
One of the big problems of being a kid is that your parents often try to make you play with people you don’t really like. My parents were forever trying to get me to like the kids of their friends. These kids were often weird. I didn’t want to play with them. It was a problem.

I remembered that when I was writing the first Ivy and Bean. Ivy and Bean are very different. Bean is loud and wild and goofy. She loves to be involved in games and poke her nose in other people’s business. Ivy is quiet and full of ideas. She spends most of her time learning how to be a witch. Each girl thinks the other one is weird. Each girl thinks she could never be friends with the other. Especially because their parents keep nagging them about it.

But sometimes opposites can become the best of friends because they’re opposites. For example, people who like to talk need people who like to listen. And people with great ideas need people who can put those ideas into action. For Ivy and Bean, their differences mean that they have more fun together than they could ever have separately. It also means that, together, they do more wacky things than any one kid could ever dream up. The Ivy and Bean books are about the adventures—and disasters—created by this unlikely team. And since their motto seems to be “Why not?” there’s every reason to believe that their capers and catastrophes will continue for quite a while.

Synopsis of Book 6 - Doomed to Dance
Ooops. Ivy and Bean have made a terrible mistake. They thought that ballet meant leaping, kicking, and cool costumes. Instead, it means they're going to have to be The Two Friendly Squids in a ballet the teacher made up. How embarrassing. As disaster looms, the girls come up with a great escape plan. It's an easy plan, a simple plan, a beautiful plan. It only involves a field trip, a couple of sharks, and some weird animals that glow in the dark.

My almost seven year old daughter was looking for another series similar to the Junie B. Jones books she loved in Kindergarten. Now that she's a sophisticated First Grader, I knew the formula had to include a snarky, funny protagonist. One day at the library, we came across these books. And the stories of two, at first, unlikely friends have literally swept us away.

I encourage parents whose children love characters with spunk who can turn common situations and challenges into a dizzying adventure filled journey, to pick up the Ivy and Bean series. Both you and your child will find yourselves laughing out loud.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Great Bedtime Stories for Little Ones

By Steve Metzer
Illustrated by Claire Keay
Published by Tiger Tales
Released 2009
Ages 1-5

Every season has it's song, and I love you all year long!
Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall... celebrate the love between you and your little one all through the year with this reassuring board book!

This was such a cute read, that I couldn't help but add this my children's collection of bedtime stories. Journey through the season and celebrate the fun each season brings, telling your child you love them when....
"I love you when.... We catch falling leaves that dance in the breeze. Our hayrides gets silly in air crisp and chilly."
Cute pictures and great rhyming words will make this story one both you and your child will enjoy.

By Kate Toms
Published by Make Believe Ideas Ltd.
Published in 2007
Ages: 1-5

A delightful bedtime story about a small mouse who dreams of the twinkling stars. Could he catch one in a net and keep it as his special pet? Or could he fly up on his rocket and gather star dust in his pocket? Rhyming text and beautiful hand-stitched illustrations make this an ideal book for parents and young children to share.

This is one we read every single night. It's such a great cute spin on the popular song, Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. Little mouse gets ready for bed and talks to the star shining brightly above. He wants to keep it his pet and wonders if there's other mice like he, who live across the sea and see the same star. It's a great rhyming book for your little ones. My youngest loves to touch the glittery star you'll see on each page, that matches the one on the cover.

By Claire Freedman
Illustrated by Tina Macnaughton
Published by Good Books
Released in 2007 (original release in 2005)
Ages: infant-5

All of the animals, from the bold leopard to the shy antelope, snuggle down for the night, ready to sleep, in this charming book. The baby hippo cuddles up close for a big hippo hug while the porcupines curl up together in one spiky ball. This soothing rhyme, illustrated with glowing pastels, is the perfect bedtime story for a child worn out by a busy day.

This is another favorite that's read almost every night. This story takes us through the African Savannah as all the little animals get ready for bed. From tired lion cubs, to the mischievous monkey to baby hippo. The illustrations are adorable and I'm sure will be loved by your little ones.

Great Bedtime Stories For the Whole Family

Words and Music by Pete Seeger
Paintings by Linda Wingerter
Published by Little Brown and Company
Published in 2002

When asked which of his songs he would most like to be sung 100 years from now, Pete Seeger replied, 'One Grain of Sand.' To bring this song to life on the page, artist Linda Wingerter painted rich, luminous scenes of families waking and sleeping all over the world-from a beach in Thailand, to a snowy pond in Scandanavia, to a high-rise apartment building in New York. The result is a gorgeous gift book for babies and families that celebrates the world's precious places and people, reflecting Seeger's lifelong commitment to social and environmental harmony. (taken from

I absolutely love this book. I love that it's full of pictures from around the world. My children love to see the various pictures, which are beautiful, and show children in their various cultures. The story is based on a lullaby, which is included in the book.

By Tony Mitton
Illustrated by Mandy Sutcliffe
Published by Little Brown and Company
1st Published in Great Britain in 2003 by Orchard Books

When it is time for bed, a brother and sister say goodnight to things both inside and outside their house.

This is one of our all time favorite stories! It's filled with great illustrations, a brother and sister say good night to the things that surround their little world, both inside and outside their house.

By Lisa McCue
Published by Sterling Publishing
Released 2009

In this beautiful picture book by renowned artist Lisa McCue, Little Bunny discovers the importance—and pleasure—of dancing to your own kind of music. More than anything, Quiet Bunny loves the sounds of the forest: the birds chirping, the wind whispering shhhhh through the leaves, and, especially, the night song all the rabbits listen to. But, one day, he wonders: how can I join in? Bunny wanders the woods asking animal after animal—but he just can’t ch-cheet like the cricket, ssssss like the hissing snake, or o-uuuu like the howling wolves. But nothing feels just right—until Quiet Bunny finds the wonderful beat that’s his and his alone.

My children really enjoy this book. It's one of their favorite stories to have read before bedtime. They love to make the animal sounds and help Quiet Bunny make his night song.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Timeless Magic of Half Magic

Title - Half Magic
Author - Edward Eager
Publisher - Scholastic
Date Published - 1954.
Ages - 9-12.

Synopsis -

It all Begins with a strange coin on a sun-warmed sidewalk. Jane finds the coin, and because she and her siblings are having the worst, most dreadfully boring summer ever, she idly wishes something exciting would happen. And something does: Her wish is granted. Or not quite. Only half of her wish comes true. It turns out that the coin grants wishes -- but only by half, so that you must wish for twice as much as you want. Wishing for two times some things is a cinch, but other doubled wishes only cause twice as much trouble. What is half of twice a talking cat? Or to be half-again twice not-here? And how do you double your most heartfelt wish, the one you care about so much that it has to be perfect? Edward Eager's Half Magic has enchanted legions of readers for fifty years. This collectible, one-of-a-kind volume features the original art by N. M. Bodecker and a new introduction by award-winning author Jack Gantos, making it the definitive edition of this enduring classic.

I first picked up Half Magic by Edward Eager in third grade. And I haven't put it down since. When people ask me what book(s) started my love of all things fantasy, I point to Half Magic. Since then, I have read it countless times. Now as a Mommy, I'm enjoying reading it to my children. Amazingly, the story written, over 50 years ago, still stands the test of time.

If you love stories about siblings who are looking for distractions during a boring summer break and if you love stories about magic, be sure to pick up this book. The resulting math, as they have to wish for twice the amount of anything they desire, is hilarious. The people they encounter as they time travel, Sir Lancelot and Merlin, himself will leave you wanting to read more about those legends.

Snuggle up with the kids, pretend it's summer break and enjoy this classic story.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Testing the Ice, A True Story About Jackie Robinson

By Sharon Robinson
Published by Scholastic Press
Pages: 40
Ages: 9-12

When Jackie Robinson retires from baseball and moves his family to Connecticut, the beautiful lake on their property is the center of everyone's fun. The neighborhood children join the Robinson kids for swimming and boating. But oddly, Jackie never goes near the water.
In a dramatic episode that first winter, the children beg to go ice skating on the lake. Jackie says they can go--but only after he tests the ice to make sure it's safe. The children prod and push to get Jackie outside, until hesitantly, he finally goes.

Like a blind man with a stick, Jackie taps on the ice's surface, when suddenly howling and roaring sounds come out of the lake! It is only then that Sharon realizes why she's never seen her father in the water -- Jackie doesn't know how to swim! But her horror changes to relief as Jackie bravely taps his way to the middle of the lake -- and declare it safe!

My children are younger than the ages recommended for this book and they still loved it. My son loved it as he's a huge baseball fan and loved learning about one of America's greatest baseball players. Sharon does such a great job at pulling the reader into this story. It starts out talking about her father's accomplishments and what he endured as an African American baseball player. Then she talks about this beautiful home and property they moved into in CT that had a lovely pond that they would all swim in, except her father as he doesn't know how to swim. When it freezes over, the children all ask their father if they can ice skate. Mr. Robinson proceeds to test the ice for the children to make sure it's safe before they ice skate.

The story is one that left me wishing I was there to experience it. If the story doesn't capture you, the artwork will. It's a beautifully written story with such beautiful art work that will capture your attention.

Highly recommend for any baseball fan and any fan of Jackie Robinson.

Clifford The Champion

By Norman Bridwell
Published by Cartwheel Books (Scholastic)
Pages: 40
Ages: 4-8

Clifford has entered a contest to become America's Super Dog! But he is competing against Champ. Champ does everything perfectly. He runs fast, jumps high, and is good at catching Frisbees. Champ may be a winner, but Clifford will prove he has good sportsmanship and a winning spirit!

This is a great book to add to your collection of Children's book and for any Clifford fan. Children will learn that they, like Clifford don't need to win a trophy to be a real winner. Clifford is competing against Champ to win the America's Super Dog trophy. Champ is fast and smaller than Clifford and keeps beating Clifford at the various obstacle races, but Clifford doesn't give up. He's happy and smiling the whole way through as he knows he's doing the best he can.

Both of my children loved this story. I felt this was a great story to remind children that even if they don't get their trophy, they are a winner and it's important to keep trying their best.

I highly recommend this story.

How Does A Dinosaur Say I Love You

By Jane Yolen
Published by The Blue Sky Press (Scholastic)
Pages: 40
Released: October 6, 2009
Ages: 4-8

I think this is one of my favorite Dinosaurs books, outside of the How Does A Dinosaur Go To Bed. It's a book my kids and I both loved reading and when I pulled it out of the box last week my kids wanted me to read it right away.
The story is a good way to remind our children that even when they're naughty, we still love them.
These little dinosaurs act naughty, and even when they do that, they're parents still remind them that they love them. I found myself laughing out loud to some of the things Jane wrote about. She captured the typical actions children do that parents get frustrated. Throwing a fit about getting ready for school, not liking what is offered at dinner, not being nice on the play ground and so forth, but at the end of each action the dinosaur does something and the parent says how much they love them.

I highly recommend this book.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fresh from the Mail Box

Fresh from the Scholastic Box and waiting to be read:

I'll be posting reviews shortly, as my kids are patiently waiting to have these read to them.

Scholastic Children's Books Review

I received these wonderful Children's books from Scholastic a few weeks ago. My kids and I have really enjoyed reading them.

Why is "hero" is a word so often reserved for warriors who fight with guns and weapons to defend their people? Renowed picture book biographer Jonah Winter writes of another kind of hero, a peaceful hero, who is willing to die for a cause, but never to kill for a cause. From the ultimate hero, Jesus of Nazareth, to the ordinary man who saved Rwanda, Paul Rusesabagina, Jonah Winter brings children a series of remarkable stories about the bravest people history has known. The searing text is illustrated with moving portraits from a brand new talent, Sean Addy

This is a great book that takes some of the most influential people in the world and gives a short story on them and what they've done to better the world. This spans centuries and tells us about 14 heroes starting with Jesus Christ and talks about other heroes like Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, William Feehan, and so on.

The book is written in a very non religious way. It's just stating the facts on what these wonderful people to better the world and the people who lived when they did and all of us now. I'll be the first to admit that I'm glad I read this book, as they are some awesome heroes that I hadn't even heard about before and I'm embarrassed to admit that, especially after learning about what they've done.
5 stars

When Lucy Pennykettle believes that there's a monster in her bedroom, her mom knows just what to do. She makes her a guard dragon named Gruffen. Lucy's mom is great at making clay dragons, which adorn their house and are sold to buyers. Gruffen isn't just a clay dragon, he's more than that. Gruffen is a guardian dragon and his most important duty is protecting Lucy at night from the monster in her room. He was made with a special ingredient, ice that has a touch of magic. Gruffen is a real little dragon. Soon enough he finds out what the monster in Lucy's room is and it's not really a monster after all.

This is such a cute story, that my son loved it. It's a perfect book for those that are just learning to read. This is one in a series of books.
5 stars

This book came a couple weeks ago and it came at the perfect time as for preschool that week we were talking about the change in seasons. My preschoolers in my class LOVED it!!

The story follows Pip, a young squirrel as he wakes up one morning to find that his tree is changing and he doesn't understand why. We wants it to stay how it is. He hurries about picking up all the beautiful colored leaves that keep falling and tries to put them back in the tree only to have more fall again. It's not until his mama explains to him that trees lose their leaves each fall and get them back again in the spring is he reassured.

4 stars

Far, far North, when the nights are longest and the stars shine brightest, Santa begins to prepare for his big night of giving. He gathers his reindeer, feeds them parsnips and berries, and polishes his bells and his sled. Then lovingly, he chooses toys for every child in the world. For Santa loves them all, and he knows what each child at heart wants most. Then, with the thrum of magic that makes reindeers fly, he spreads the Christmas joy and warmth throughout the world--as he always has -- and always will until the end of time.
Lauren Thompson is known for her uncanny ability to reach the hearts and minds of the youngest readers.
Jon J Muth's luminescent watercolor strike all the perfect chords in this warm, reassuring Christmas story.

This book is such a delight and I'm sure one that will be treasured for years to come. It has beautiful illustrations as the book takes us on a journey of how Santa Claus goes about getting ready for Christmas. He starts to prepare on a chilly northern night when he feels the magic of Christmas will be arriving soon. He calls the reindeer home and gets them ready. He prepares his big, red sleigh, and double checks the names in his name book. He gathers the toys and loads in them in the sleigh. On the brightly star lit night, when the sleigh is prepared, the reindeer ready and Santa is in his sleigh the magic arrives. The magic is what helps Santa and the reindeer fly and off they go.

5 stars

You find out more and add your reviews here:
I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves. ~ Anna Quindlen

Good children's literature appeals not only to
the child in the adult, but to the adult in the child.
~ Anonymous ~