Friday, November 9, 2018

6 Books My 10-year-old Loved

The other day Benjamin was looking for something good to read. I popped over to the Cybils website and we browsed the shortlists from 2017 for some books. We put them on hold at our library and once he had read them all, I asked him to rank them for me. "Which one should I read?" He picked one and then I asked him to put the rest in order for me.

Benjamin said, "It's kind of hard to rate them, because they're all really good."

One of the books was non-fiction: Two Truths and a Lie: It's Alive! by Paquette and Thompson. I love the premise of this book. Each chapter has three short articles about interesting plants/animals. The kicker is that one of them is a lie! The idea is that this gives the kids practice reading critically and checking the sources of an article that appears to be non-fiction. The boys ate it up, and Jubilee has asked to get in on the fun and had me read several chapters to her.  Of this book, Benjamin said, "I know you've read part of this, so decide."

In 5th place...
The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson. This one is realistic fiction, and Benjamin prefers fantasy. But he likes a good test of his wit, and The Parker Inheritance is "a puzzle book, like Under the Egg and Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library. Something you can kind of solve along with the character, but it's still a story and has all those plot twists." He mentioned that it has themes of History and African Americans.

In 4th place...
A Properly Unhaunted Place by William Alexander. According to the cover, this author has previously won the National Book Award. So that's a good sign. Benjamin said, "Truthfully, I couldn't decide between this one and The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart. It's actually kind of about respect." (Oooh, he's picking up on themes! Because he said this, I asked him about themes in each of the other books.) "But not in a 'respect your elders' way. It's about ghosts. It has plenty of action in it; and things that can happen to the narrator and the reader is like 'What?! That can happen?!' It's written in the first person."

In 3rd place...
The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis. Benjamin said, "This one is really good. It definitely includes magic, as you can tell. It ends on a very happy noteall of these books do, but this one was, like, a really nice ending. Plenty of action and you get to experience the book from the viewpoint of a dragon which isn't often explored." (And yes, when he said "which isn't often explored" I was duly impressed.) He said this one has a theme of Family. I've listened to the first chapter or so of this on audio already.

In 2nd place...
Miss Ellicott's School for the Magically Minded by Sage Blackwood. Benjamin said, "It has some magic performed in really intriguing ways. It also has a mystery inside of it." He has already checked out the Jinx trilogy by this same author, because he liked this one so much. He said this one has the theme of Problem Solving.

In 1st place...
Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh. Benjamin said, "Read this. It has the right amount of action, scariness, and . . . 'tradition' almost? And it's very good." When I asked him what the theme was, he said Tradition. That's a little more nebulous than the others, and since this one is his top recommendation, I think I'm going to have to read it.

I think I'll start right now.

[UPDATE from Alysa: I just finished Spirit Hunters. It is scary! It's really well written, and it does have a happy ending, as Benjamin promised, but it is more violent than I was expecting it to be. It reminded me of the one single Goosebumps book I read in childhood, which was enough for me. So I don't know if I would recommend it for a 10 year old? I just don't generally recommend scary books. If I were going to recommend a scary book, this one is actually really good - great interplay between tension and happier moments,  strong, well developed characters. It has a very satisfying ending, but sets up well for a series and book two, Spirit Hunters 2: The Island of Monsters is already out. And I kind of want to read it despite my trepidation when it comes to reading in the horror genre . . . so maybe that's recommendation enough? I don't know if I would even classify Spirit Hunters as horror, maybe a horror/realistic fiction/fantasy blend. Hmmm.]

Thursday, November 8, 2018

What We're Reading, Fall 2018

It's about time for a reading update, don't you think?  This is the first autumn since 2015 that I haven't been reading graphic novels like crazy for Cybils round 1. Instead I'm chairing the category and I'll be judging Easy Readers & Early Chapter books in January.

Here's what each of us have been reading, youngest to oldest...

Sam, age 1 - Sam has gotten into a good routine of reading 3 board books each night with Daddy. Jacob always reads/sings him You Are My Sunshine as the last one, but Rocket Town by Bob Logan, and Count!by Denise Fleming are in heavy rotation.

Jubilee, age 5, Kindergarten - Jubilee's ability to read is exploding! She was recognizing some sight words before kindergarten started but a little bit of formal instruction in school has really boosted her reading ability. Most nights (and days) we read to her, but it's a special treat when she reads a book to us. And both Jacob and I were complete puddles when she read a book to Sam the other day. Her favorite from the library right now is The Princess and the Pit Stop. It's by the author of Origami Yoda and illustrated by Caldecott winner Dan Santat. The princess races against all manner of fairy tale characters. Jubilee is also very much looking forward to reading the latest Princess in Black book, The Princess in Black and the Science Fair Scare, which is now available.

Levi, age 8, Grade 3 - Levi is reading independantly and very well for his age. I still love reading to him though, and we enjoyed Creepy Pair of Underwear! and Zen Ghosts before Halloween. Both are picture books I had checked out from the library. Speaking of the library, he came along with me the other day and checked out several Spirit Animals books, a handful of the I Survived series, and a big stack of Zapato Power books, which I had not heard of before. In them, our hero finds some zapatos (shoes) that give him extra powers and he solves mysteries and investigates suspicious occurences. Levi is also rereading the Calvin Coconut series, "because it's been a while."

Benjamin, age 10, Grade 5 - Benjamin is reading tons of great books. I'm going to write you a whole post about it. He got a bunch of good recommendations from the 2017 Cybils shortlists. [Update: That post is now live! Find it here: 6 Books My 10-year-old Loved]

Alysa, aka Mom - I have been reading The Book of Mormon at a faster pace than ever before, to keep up with the challenge President Nelson gave to read it from the beginning before the end of the year. I'm really enjoying the challenge, as it is requiring me to read in a whole new way. Like a sprint, instead of a walk in the park. Doesn't let me smell the flowers, but it is exhilarating! I was also able to read Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt, and chose to discuss it for book club this month. I'm hosting. I was afraid it would be an annoying tear-jerker, but it was not. It gives you a lot to think about. And I just got a hold of The Mushroom Fan Club by Elise Gravel. So cute and fun, plus it has some facts about mushrooms.

Jacob, aka Dad - Jacob has been reading The Black Count, and whenever he dips into it he tells me something interesting at the dinner table. Just yesterday he got his copy of the latest Brandon Sanderson book, Skyward. If he wasn't writing an exam at this moment, he would be reading it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

My New Favorite Board Game

Saturday night, Jacob and I went to game night again. It's really fun to have a group of friends we play board games with. It's also really nice to have a fun place to go on a date together, and to know that we're just paying for the babysitter and not for something else on top of that.

We do game night in an auditorium. I'm kidding, this photo is from a concert we went to recently.

We played two games this time: Tsuro: The Game of the Path and 7 Wonders

I had never played Tsuro before, and when someone said "That's a really beautiful board," I had to agree.

The game has quick turns, something I love in a game.

I took 2nd place the first time we played, then said "Ok, now I want to play it like 20 times, to figure it out." So, we played again.

We played with 5 people, no problem. As many as 8 players can play at once. The second time we played, I took last place. So of course I'm dying to redeem myself.

I would recommend this to fans of Blokus, because I'm a fan of Blockus and I can see some similarities between the games: moving across the board, planning your moves out and getting blocked by opponents.

My kids (ages 5-10) could play Tsuro, I think, and I've got something to prove, now. I'll be putting this game on my Christmas list.

7 Wonders: Leaders Expansion

Expansions sometimes give me a headache, but this one did not. I've played 7 Wonders enough to be able to handle the upgrade: be impressed! Of big board games with lots of tiny pieces and obscure rules, I think 7 Wonders is my favorite. Thanks to the Van Noys for introducing us to it, five years ago.

The Leaders expansion fits nicely into the original game, basically adding a new phase before phase I starts. You get to choose 3 "leaders" for your city and at the beginning of each phase you can play one of them if you like. They give you extra powers and/or chances for victory points.

I went whole hog on the army stuff, and thought I was going to take 2nd place, but it's better to go whole hog on the science stuff, which is what the winner did. The 2nd place winner went with a very round strategy, whereas I pretty much passed on all the science cards, and took 3rd.

We played with 6 people, one newbie. The new player made a couple of mistakes (see above: "obscure rules") but everyone in the group made similar mistakes the first time they played. I actually said, "Oh, we forgot to mention that rule," and our host said, "No, we mentioned it, but it's ok..." I love the good sportsmanship that I see at game night.

Played any good games, lately?

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Nominate these Graphic Novels!

Hello! I'm looking for some people to nominate some books! Are you a person? You have an email address? You have not already nominated? You can nominate*! 

If you nominate, these books are in the running for the Cybils Awards. One of them could win! You could help someone find a book they love. 

Perhaps you're not up on the latest graphic novels? These are books that my Graphic-Novel-loving panelists say could be contenders and haven't been nominated yet. :-O *gasp of horror* Monday 10/15/2018 is the last day for public nominations!

Elementary/Middle Grade:
  • Violette Around the World Vol 1: My Head in the Clouds by Teresa Radice published by IDW Publishing May 8, 2018. 
  • Brave Chef Brianna by Sam Sykes, Selina Espiritu, published by KaBOOM! Dec 12, 2017.

Young Adult:
  • Perfect World by Rie Aruga, published by Kodansha Comics March 20, 2018
  • Luisa: Now and Then by Carole Maurel & Mariko Tamaki, published by HumanoidsJune 20, 2018
  • Wotakoi by Fujita, published by Kodansha Comics Apr 17, 2018
  • A Girl in the Himalayas by David Jesus Vignolli, published by Archaia April 24, 2018. 
  • Ladycastle by Delilah S. Dawson, et. al, published by BOOM! Studios October 24, 2017
  • Moonstruck Vol 1: Magic to Brew by Grace Ellis et al, published by Image Comics March 27, 2018
  • Supergirl: Being Super by Mariko Tamaki published by DC Comics June 5, 2018
  • Macbeth (Manga Classics) by William Shakespeare, adapted by Crystal S. Chan,  UDON Entertainment September 1, 2018.
Thanks, friends! Nominations are now closed!
*But please, nominate books that are eligible. Books must be published between October 16, 2017 and October 15, 2018 to be eligible. They must also be widely available, and published for childrens/YA markets. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Carmela Full of Wishes

The other day I was on Instagram and I saw that Christian Robinson (who I enjoy following over there) was going on a book tour. Then I saw he was coming to my town! How fantastic!

Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson are the duo who produced Last Stop on Market Street. It's kind of a big deal, because it was the first picture book to win the Newbery Award in ages (one of only two picture books that have ever won, according to this source) and it was also the first time a Latino author has been awarded the Newbery, and it also got a Caldecott Honor and Coretta Scott King Award.

So, I figured a new book by them ought to be alright.

Well, Carmela Full of Wishes is great for us!

Carmela wakes up on her birthday and is so happy that she is finally old enough to go with her big brother on the errands. Her brother, on the other hand, is less than thrilled. Along the way, Carmela finds a dandelion, and manages to both annoy her brother and think up all kinds of great wishes to put into this dandelion fluff before she blows it. Always realistic and eventually heartwarming, Carmela Full of Wishes is our new favorite picture book. Even Jubilee's older brothers, who declined my invitation to come to the event, were caught reading and quoting Carmela.  I plan to read it to Jubilee's class at school tomorrow.

We went to the launch with my friend, Bethany, who has written a few posts for me here on Everead. (Check them out, here.) Having Bethany along made the event at least 10x more fun for me. My best tip about book events is to bring a friend alongit makes the signing line go faster.

Jubilee has been to other book events, but has forgotten them, so this one was effectively her first.
  • She got to spin a wheel, and won some twizzlers. 
  • She got to ask Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson a question: "Have you ever made a wish on a dandelion?" (Thanks for feeding her the stellar question, Bethany!) Christian answered that he had, in fact, wished on a dandelion that this book would make it out into the world. Hurrah! 
  • She got to make a wish on a paper dandelion: "I wish that a fairy would come to life!"
  • She got a free book, just for being an elementary school student at the event! Thanks New London Education Foundation! That was definitely unexpected and fulfilled my wish.
  • She got to have a book signed to her and a little kitty cat drawn into it, too. 
  • And she got to stay up way past her bedtime. 
How about you? Read any good books lately? Made any good wishes?

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