Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Book Review: Allie Finkel's Rules for Girls (book 3) Best Friends and Drama Queens

Publisher: Scholastic
Released Date: February 1, 2010
Age: 8 and up
Source: Purchased

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars -- We loved it!

Synopsis: Allie Finkle is excited when a new girl, who comes all the way from Canada, joins her class at Pine Heights Elementary. Now Allie won't be the new girl anymore!
But her excitement turns to dismay when the new girl, Cheyenne, starts telling everyone in the fourth grade what to do! Soon Cheyenne has everyone, including Allie's best friends, Caroline, Sophie, and Erica, believing that if they don't do what she says, they'll be what Cheyenne accuses them of being - babies!
But Allie isn't sure she's ready to be all grown-up yet. Not if it means chasing boys at recess, not playing her favorite games anymore, and especially...not being herself!

I love when my favorite authors write a series that my middle grader can read. Normally, I try to review the first book in the series but MundieTween got so far ahead of me that she demanded, begged, pleaded asked politely if I could drive to the library in a cold, winter rain storm to pick up book four in the series. Because the series gets better and better with each volume, she and I decided to review the one she just finished, book three -- Best Friends and Drama Queens.

According to MundieTween, Allie is very relatable to all fourth and some third grade girls (please note the distinction is my daughter's) because she's just like any girl -- she has friends, a pet and faces the issue of bullying (in the second book). The dynamic between Cheyenne and Allie and her best friends is a very real one. I see it with my daughter's group of friends. While they are still little girls, they're beginning to feel the pressure of not playing some of their favorite childhood games and feeling the pressure to play more girl-boy games. Like the Kissing Game. I loved Cheyenne's character and how she kept pointing out that Allie and her friends were "immature" as if that was a bad thing. MundieTween felt Cheyenne acted bossy and she hated her. She used the words "despicable and mean" which made me laugh. A reader should feel that way about an antagonist, after all.

The story led us to a wonderful discussion on what is age appropriate and what isn't. And how you really shouldn't be in such a rush to grow up after all.  Not in fourth grade. There would be plenty of time for Kissing Games and going out with boys. Plenty of time.

An aside: I absolutely love when my daughter asks me to go to the author's or publisher's website and we discover a site dedicated to the series. We here at Mundie Kids know that Scholastic rocks, but boy did they go all out with the Allie Finkel site.

Thank you, thank you Meg Cabot for writing a series that leads to important discussions between parents and tweens. I know that in our busy lives it's hard to find the time to sit and talk, but books like Allie Finkel will open up those much needed, timely discussions.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday/Book Review: Big Nate In A Class By Himself Special Edition

Welcome this week's edition of Marvelous Middle Grade Monday! You can find out more this weekly meme by visiting debut MG author, Shannon Messenger's website.

Released on: October 30th, 2012
Source: book to review from publisher
Ages: 8 & up
4 Stars: I Enjoyed It
Purchase from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

Nate knows he's meant for big things. REALLY big things.

But life doesn't always go your way just because you're awesome.

Trouble always seems to find him, but Nate keeps his cool no matter what.

He knows he's great. A fortune cookie told him so.

For fans of the hilarious Diary of a Wimpy Kid series: Here comes BIG NATE, accidental mischief maker and definitely NOT the teacher's pet - quoted from Goodreads

Nate is destined for big things, and one of those things will be when he can "surpass all others". At least that's what his fortune cookie says, and we all know how often those are right. In Nate's case, it is right, but it's what Nate surpasses others on is one of the comical moments in this book. Nate is a kid who just can't seem to catch a break, and he's definitely in a class all by himself. I felt bad for him at times, and other times I couldn't help but laugh with him. No matter what he does, or doesn't do, something always happens and he finds himself blamed for it. No matter what happens during his day, Nate can at least meet his obstacles with humor, and a bit of sarcasm.

This is the first Big Nate I've read and now I can see why it's a huge hit. This along with The Diary of a Wimpy Kid are both series that we couldn't seem to keep in stock with the latest Scholastic book fair I helped co-run. I kinda of wish I had books like this when I was a kid, as they would have made me realize I wasn't the only one feeling the way they do. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Book Review: Cordially Uninvited by Jennifer Roy

By: Jennifer Roy
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Release Date: April 3, 2012
Ages: 8 and up
Source: Purchased
Buy: IndieBound | amazon | Barnes and Noble

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars -- We loved it!

Synopsis: It’s The Princess Diaries meets Mean Girls when eleven-year-old Claire is invited to the royal wedding of the century!

Claire Gross, age eleven, might live in sleepy upstate New York, but she’s about to be a junior bridesmaid in the wedding of the century! Claire’s cousin Belle is engaged to the Prince of England, and Claire and her mom are heading to London for the royal ceremony.

Getting whisked away on a trans-Atlantic jet and thrown into a whirlwind of wedding activities would be a dream for any other girl, but Claire isn’t sure this is a match made in heaven. To make matters worse, another junior bridesmaid seems determined to sabotage the event! Can Claire put aside her own misgivings to save the day? What if there’s no such thing as happily ever after?

From award-winning author Jennifer Roy, this is a hilarious, heartfelt story about a girl who discovers that fairy tales may not exist, but sometimes there’s still a little magic to be found in real life.

My daughter and I both love royal weddings and yes, we enjoyed every minute of the pageantry as William and Kate walked down the aisle. So imagine our delight when we found this book. It gave us a glimpse into the tension and family/friend politics surrounding such an event.

My daughter, MundieTween, thought it was cool how a normal girl became the cousin of a princess and how she almost interrupted the wedding of the century. As a reader she didn't want to stop reading because she needed to know how it was going to end -- could it be disastrous? Do happily ever afters even exist? We both believed Claire feelings about happily ever afters because she'd never met her father. This detail set up the story beautifully and Jennifer wrote it in a funny, sweet way that left both of us laughing at the end.

I encourage parents and tweens, who want a story about a royal wedding and what it means to be family, to pick up this story. Both MundieTween and I are looking forward to more of Jennifer's middle grade books.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Book Review: Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

By: Laura Ingalls Wilder
Published by: Harper Collins Childrens
Date Published: First published in 1932
Ages: 8 and up
Source: Purchased
Purchase: Barnes and Noble | IndieBound | amazon

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars -- we both loved it!

Synopsis: Wolves and panthers and bears roam the deep Wisconsin woods in the late 1870's. In those same woods, Laura lives with Pa and Ma, and her sisters, Mary and Baby Carrie, in a snug little house built of logs. Pa hunts and traps. Ma makes her own cheese and butter. All night long, the wind howls lonesomely, but Pa plays the fiddle and sings, keeping the family safe and cozy.

You know when you're pregnant and you start buying books that you hope your child will love as much as you did? But because they're not even born you put them away on a shelf and years go by, the baby grows and one day she comes home all excited to read that very book? It just happened to me. I loved the Little House series when I was growing up. And when my MundieTween came home clutching Little House in the Big Woods, I was beyond excited. So we're going to do our very first joint review.

MMSophie: What was your favorite part of the story?
MTween: Probably when Pa plays "Pop Goes the Weasel" on Laura's birthday and Laura and Mary were watching for the "pop".
MMSophie: What made you love that moment?
MTween:  The girls asked him to do it again and again because they couldn't see when exactly he did it. 

We both decided we loved the family dynamic. MundieTween concluded that they were a "nice and sweet family" who stuck together no matter what happened. We discussed how hard and tiring life was for them in the big woods. I'd forgotten the part about the pig. I mean, you just couldn't get attached to animals that had to become food. MundieTween cringed a little when Laura described blowing up a pig's bladder and playing with it like it was a balloon. Ah, how times have changed.

The book is available in many formats including audio-book  We chose to both read and listen to it and I have to admit that the descriptions of family life during those times served to remind us of how thankful we are to have a roof over our heads and the cozy hum of our heater keeping us warm as temperatures drop.

Fourth graders start to learn about pioneers/settlers/emigrants and this is the perfect story which will accompany their social studies lessons. There are wonderful lesson plans and discussion ideas found here. It's also a great story to read this time of year because it gives us a lot to be thankful during our busy holiday times.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Scholastic Book Fairs & New Books On My Shelves

I've been a little MIA lately on my blog, but that's for a could reason. I've had the privilege to once again co-host my kids's school's Scholastic Book Fair. What a fabulous, week long event. I don't know what it is about Scholastic book orders and book fairs that makes me feel like I turn into a little kid all over again. Remember those Scholastic book orders you brought home as a kid? I LOVED them. I swear I still get excited when my kids bring theirs home. That excitement is magnified with the Scholastic Book Fair. This year there were quite a number of books there that I had already read, which made it all the more fun to talk to parents, teachers and kids about. 

Aside from getting books in the hands of kids, one of the things I love about Scholastic Book Fairs is their giving back. This year they charity was All of Books. For every dollar that a student brought in, their teacher not only received that exact dollar amount to use to "purchase" books for their classrooms, but Scholastic matched that exact amount to be used to purchase books for kids in need of books. You don't need to have a student present at the school to purchase books. Many, if not all, Scholastic book fairs are open to the public. After all, who can resist a good deal on books? Not only that, in the process of buying books you're also helping out that particular school, and the school's library. You can't go wrong. 

Here are some of the goodies I purchased this week from the Book Fair:

  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The 3rd Wheel
  • Pet Fairies to the Rescue!
  • Belle the Birthday Fairy
  • I Am Sacagawea
  • Who Was Steve Jobs?
  • I Am Albert Einstein
  • Who Was Walt Disney?
  • The Civil War: An Interactive History Adventure
  • Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu
  • Ghost Buddy: Mind If I Read Your Mind?
  • Wolves of the Beyond: Spirit Wolf
  • Dear America: Christmas After All
I also purchased a few others, but since they're Christmas gifts I'm not going to list them on here. To those who do support reading, and purchase from the Scholastic Book Fairs, thank you!! You make all the time and effort we put into putting together and running the book fairs so worth it!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Book Review & Giveaway: Here Where The Sunbeams Are Green by Helen Phillips

Published by: Delacorte Press
To Be Released on: November 13th, 2012
Ages: 8 & up
Source: ARC from publisher to review
4 Stars: I Enjoyed It
Pre-Order from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

Mad's dad is the Bird Guy. He'll go anywhere to study birds. So when he's offered a bird-tracking job in Central America, his bags are packed and he's jungle bound.

But going bird tracking in the jungle and disappearing completely are very different things, and when the Very Strange and Incredibly Creepy Letter arrives, Mad can't shake the terrible feeling that her father is in trouble.

Roo, Mad's younger sister, is convinced that the letter is a coded message. And their mom is worried, because the letter doesn't sound like Dad at all. But Mad is sure it's a sign of something sinister.

The only way to get to the bottom of it is to go to Lava Bird Volcano and find their dad themselves. Though they never could have imagined what they're about to discover.

From new talent Helen Phillips, Here Where the Sunbeams Are Green is the story of what can happen when two sisters make some unusual friends, trust in each other, and bravely face a jungle of trouble all to bring their family back together. -quoted from Goodreads

Middle grade readers will enjoy this exciting mystery, adventure book. Traveling to the heart of a Central American rain forest, sisters Mad and Roo, along with their mom and traveling companion, are on a mission to find out what's happened to Mad & Roo's father, who was offered a job to track and find rare birds. This lush jungle offers more than beauty, and the sisters find themselves face to face with villains, a mystery, and form an amazing bond during the process. 

I love it when authors can write a book for kids that's full of adventure, danger and excitement by incorporating bites of realism with that of magic and a lot of imagination. This is a book I think young readers will really enjoy as they get to know more about Mad and Roo, and feel like they're right along side them on their mission to solve the mystery behind their father's absence and what's really going on within the canopies of this rain forest. I adored the relationship the two sisters have and form during this trip. While Mad is the more serious, insightful one, Roo is a little bit less uptight and a bit more fun. She brought the humor to all the right parts of the book. Together these two are fabulous. It's hard not to love them for who they are. 

I thought this was a great read. I think it's one MG readers are going to enjoy. There are things they'll be able to relate to, other things they'll enjoy discovering, and over all it's a fun story to read about. I also liked the age appropriate crush that is woven into this story, the mystery, and the moments of danger and adventure this story has. It's one I'd recommend picking up.

Thank you to the publisher, I've got one copy of the book to giveaway. To enter, please fill out the form below.

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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 ~