Thursday, January 3, 2019

What I've been reading!!

Hey! Hi! Howdy! Happy New Year!

I don't really have time to blog, but then when did I ever? But I can't resist. I've gotta tell ya what I've been reading.


Firstly, Cybils shortlists just got announced. This year I've been the Graphic Novels chair, but not on the Graphic Novels panel. So I've been listening in on all their discussions about the best books and now I'm reading like crazy to catch up on all these great graphic novels!

So far I've read the following that are on the shortlists:

Anne Frank's Diary: The Graphic Adaptation - this one was SO GOOD. I read the Diary of Anne Frank back in 9th grade and thought it was amazing, of course, but had no particular interest in rereading it. So I thought I'd give this a shot and just abandon it if it was meh. Oh. I could not put it down. Perfect marriage of text and illustration. Amazing job condensing the diary and disclosing what was condensed. I highly recommend it for adults and young adults.

On a Sunbeam - I just finished this one moments ago! It's about a girl, Mia. The setting is the far future. It's a coming-of-age/adventure/romance. One of the panelists described it as a whole trilogy in one book, and I could totally see that. It's quite thick, and I found it compelling to read until the natural breaking point in the narrative, then compelling again. Another panelist said it had a Firefly vibe -- yep. Super well done, and lotsa spaceship adventures. Many of the characters are LGBTQ+, including the main romance and all the relationships of supporting characters. Lots of swearing, which I suppose probably made the dialog more believable, but I like living in my bubble where swears are few and far between. If it were a movie, it'd be PG-13 but with more F-words. Still, I recommend this one for appropriate audiences, because of its excellent plotting, pacing, character- and world-building. I'm glad I read it, but I won't be buying it for my home library.

The Cardboard Kingdom - My kids loved this book. I checked it out of the library and they read it first of the whole stack. I got a little ways into it, and it got heavy for me. The story of the whole neighborhood -- the kingdom -- is told in short stories. Some of them have themes like fitting in, being creative, working things out with a friend, but others have heavier themes like same-gender attraction, parents splitting up, and bullying. Soo, I guess I needed a little more time to digest it than my kids did. Which exactly mirrors the kids and adults in the book. Haha. Anyway, it came due at the library before I finished it, so I returned it, but checked it out again a couple of weeks later. I did want to finish it. Once again my boys snatched it up and both of them reread it. Safe to say it's got kid appeal! And it is well done.

Anne of Green Gables - This one I read a while back -- I had heard good things about this adaptation, including from trusty Amy at Sunlit Pages. So I picked it up. It was really good. I read the whole series of books when I was a kid, and watched part one of the mini-series a couple of years ago, but I had definitely forgotten a lot of the plot. The art is beautiful in it's own right and I don't feel like I can really compare the graphic novel to the actual novel since it has been so long since I've read the original. But I loved the graphic novel and I hope they make a sequel and do the rest of the series in graphic format too.

Tea Dragon Society - This one is a large format, so it's bigger than a big picture book. It's gorgeous. I liked it but didn't love it. It's been a while since I read it, actually, and I'm having a hard time remembering all the details, except that I found it a little bit preachy, like it had something to prove. Since I can't remember more I'll leave it at that. It is available as a webcomic, but I hear that holding the paper version makes it even better. I've only read it on paper, and it was indeed beautiful.

Be Prepared - This is a memoir of Vera Brogsol's time at Russian Orthodox summer camp. It was really good! I could relate, having been to some religious summer camps, and I bet kids who haven't been to religious summer camps could relate, too. It's on the Elementary and Middle Grade list, but I'm guessing it will appeal most to middle schoolers and high schoolers. It has a "looking back" vibe at the end that wouldn't really be applicable to elementary schoolers, I don't think.

As the Crow Flies - Read this one quite recently and wow! It's a good book with some interesting things going on. Would make for a good book club discussion. Gorgeous art. The main character in it is a half-black christian lesbian. The scene is a christian young women's hiking trip, led by a woman with a big feminist chip on her shoulder. So themes of faith, race, weight, gender, sexual identity, and more are explored. And I think what I liked about it is that they were explored and not preached. The book doesn't guide you to a lot of conclusions... in fact even the plot itself ends quite suddenly. But, I liked it. It felt very realistic. 

The Prince and the Dressmaker - I read this one a while back and wanted to loved it, but it employed some "movie moments" -- some of those plot devices that seemed a little too unbelievable. I mean, I just can't imagine being surprised by a kiss and having it go over that well. And the fashion show? Ehhh. But I'll tell you what I loved. I loved absolutely true-to-life way that friendship and deception played together. I loved how things couldn't work out right until people were being honest.

That's all the ones on the shortlists that I've read so far! Will keep you posted as I read the rest. And I'll be reading all of the Cybils Easy Readers and Early Chapter books, but becuase I'm a round 2 judge I won't be allowed to tell you my thoughts on those until after Feb 14.

Not on the Cybils shortlist, but still a really good graphic novel that I recently read:

All Summer Long by Hope Larson. This one also explored themes of friendship, through the eyes of 13-year-old Bina. I liked how Bina's family was a big part of her experience, because families so often are (unless you're away at summer camp, ha!) I liked her personality and how she was figuring out boundaries and relationships, learning to babysit and becoming an aunt and getting good at her hobbies. I recommend this book and would totally love to own it.

And I also read the entire Book of Mormon in 3 months! I participated in a challenge extended by the worldwide president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Russell M Nelson. So glad I did this. It was a completely different experience to attempt to read the book at this pace. It's sort of like I was accostomed to walking in a flower garden, and all of a sudden I started running on the race course that happened to be in it. At first I was like "I'm tired and this is so hard and I can't see the flowers!" but then it was like "oh, this is exhilarating and I can see connections I never saw before and I'm stronger than I thought I was!" So, it was great! The Book of Mormon is available free online, and hard copies are also available for free. If you order one, a missionary might deliver it to you! My little brother Abe is on a mission right now. He's serving in Argentina.

Before Christmas I read a couple of great non-fiction books from the children's section of my local library. Proud by Ibtihaj Muhammad (Young Readers Edition) and Terrible Typhoid Mary by Susan Campbell Bartoletti.

Proud (Young Readers Edition): Living My American Dream is the memoir of the first Olympic Athlete to compete for the USA in hijab (the Muslim modesty practice uder which women cover all but the face). It was fascinating! I read a lot of it aloud to the kids and they loved it and took off with it, so I had to finish it on my own. I wonder how the Young Readers Edition (which I read) compares to the regular. There was one part where there were a bunch of generalizations and I was like "hmmm, I wonder if there is an interesting story at this point..." Ibtihaj is Afican American, Muslim, and a woman, and talked at various points in the book about the discrimination she faced because of each of these (and, sometimes, the intersection of them). Part of me wants to read the regular version, another part of me is fine. Anyway, I highly recommend it.

Terrible Typhoid Mary is about the discovery of what are now known as healthy carriers -- people who appear to be well, but are spreading infectious germs. Mary Mallon was the first healthy carrier discovered in the US, but her discovery and treatment was unethical. The pace of this book didn't clip along as quickly as Proud, so I found it a little tougher to love, but I'd still recommend it. Absolutely fascinating story, but I guess I felt like it could have been condensed into a good long article? Or really expanded into a meatier book? The book as it is is good, and I'm sure it will hit a sweet spot for some. My 10 year old read it and we talked about it a little bit.

What've you been reading lately?

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Free Unique Book Recommendations, Holidays 2018 [Post is closed!]

COMMENT IF YOU WANT A BOOK RECOMMENDATION! (person's age, a little info about the person.)

This post will be updated all during the holiday season! 🎄 Past years: 2014, 2015, 2016. (Sorry no 2017; I was in baby land!)

8 year old - loves thinking, analytical, music, video games
Attack! Boss! Cheat Code!: A Gamer's Alphabet by Chris Barton is kinda fun for video gamers! Mama Don't Allow by Thatcher Hurd is a must for music lovers!, Secret Coders series by Gene Luen Yang is A+ and got us all doing basic programming.

5 year old - loves princesses, being strong, and helping others
Has she already read Olivia and the Fairy Princesses? That one is so fun. Bedtime for Mommy by Amy Krouse Rosenthal goes with helping others and is very funny. The Princess in Black beginning chapter book series is very popular with my 5yo, we read them together, excellent for princess and being strong and helping others. Check, check, check! Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio is also one of her favorites and goes great with being strong and helping others.

3 year old - crazy crazy and terrible and cute
I am the I Am the Wolf...and Here I Come! (Gecko Press Titles) by Benedicte Guettier is just So great. It is the REAL DEAL when it comes to board books. It gets laughs and screams. Your whole fam will love it. Dragon Puncher Book 1 by James Kochalka, just as good, but not a board book. Never met a kid that didn't like it, especially a 3 year old. Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton is a mostly wordless picture book with just the best story for the youngest brother.
12 year old has read everything
Muahaha! Ok, if he's read everything, it is time to read more! It might be time for some of the classics! Try a variety. Try Alice in Wonderland Collection: All Four Books, The View from the Cherry Tree, The Thief (The Queen's Thief, Book 1), The Blue Sword (Newbery Honor Roll), and try new books! I haven't read either Scythe (Arc of a Scythe)or Shadow Magic, but both are recent Cybils award winners. 

9 year old loves animals and WWII
Has he read Bomb: The Race to Build--and Steal--the World's Most Dangerous Weapon? I really liked that one, and would give it to a 9 year old. Also, this is kind of random because this book is only available used, but recently my 8 year old brought home True Tales of Animal Heroes from his classroom library and we all enjoyed reading them aloud and gaping at the amazing feats and retelling the stories. It looks like author Allan Zullo has lots of books like it, both on the subject of animals and WWII! Kenton and this author may be a match made in heaven.

11 year old I feel like she’s read everything under the sun, and some of her favorites that I would love to see similar genres to are Harry Potter, The War that Saved my Life, and Wonder. She moved into middle school this year so she’s reading almost all YA books now, most of which have some language or sex. Her reading level is really high so it’s tough to find books that are tough enough for her reading level but without the mature content.

Here is a YA series that has lots of action but no language or sex: The Reckoners Series Boxed Set by Brandon Sanderson. If you want a great one similar to Wonder (award winning, realistic fiction) try Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea and it's two sequels. I haven't read the sequels, but the original is A+. I confess I couldn't get through The War That Saved My Life...the beginning was too sad. I was like "I can't handle this!!" But other books that strike me as somewhat similar and would be age appropriate are The Book Thiefby Marcus Zuzak and Homecoming (The Tillerman Cycle)by Cynthia Voigt, which is the first in an award winning series.

9 year old who loves fantasy. She's read Harry Potter and Land of Stories, and is almost done with Fellowship of the Ring.

How about one of my favorite books of all time: The Goose Girl (Books of Bayern) by Shannon Hale?

35 year old woman I have an audible credit coming and I need a good listen.

I confess I'm not a huge audiobook listener. My go-to recommendations are The Wee Free Men (Tiffany Aching) and Right Ho, Jeeves (both of which I think you would love, Lauri). But I looked around for a little more and discovered there is an audiobook production of Nimona. I loved the graphic novel. And I guess this audiobook won the Odyssey Award, so, now I'm curious. 

almost 9 year old boy advanced for his age, He loved the Harry Potter series and the Roald Dahl collection. 

Well, everyone loves Harry Potter, so that tells us nothing. If he hated Harry Potter, that would be something. I think perhaps he might love The Willoughbys. Or maybe you, his parent, would. Haha. It's a great story with quirky humor like Dahl. Dahl also makes me think of the prolific but less well known British author David Almond. I love all his books that I've read. My Dad's a Birdman was my introduction to him.  Both of these would be quick reads for an advanced reader, but if you could manage to read them too, there would be some great meaty discussion stuff. 

For Erinbear26
If you have not read Real Friends yet, you must. Also, you would love The Lion of Rora. Both of those are graphic novels. If you want prose, The Grand Sophy

13 year old girl some of her favorite books and series have been the hunger games, divergent, lunar chronicles, ella enchanted, and princess academy. 

We chatted in person, and I recommended Steelheart (The Reckoners)and The Bronze Bow.

34 year old woman who loves YA fiction my favorites are The Selection series and Jane Eyre. 

For you I'm going to recommend the book The Princess Bride. If you haven't read it yet, you're missing out! The movie follows the book closely, but the book adds just some awesome depth and of course some scenes that would have been impossible to make at the time.  

11 year old boy who loves survival stories like the Maze Runner but who has a mom who won't let him read the Hunger Games because of all the grown up love stuff. He also likes Renegades and just got the sequel. He is a sucker for an underdog story.

Ok, I'm not super into dystopian fiction, but my boys recommend The Unwanteds, and I recommend the book Wildfire Run to everyone who tells me their child wants to read the Hunger Games but isn't ready for the content. Dee Garretson has other survival stories as well.

Non-fiction read for GretchenAlice 
I'm going to say What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions By Randal Munroe, or if you've already read that one, then Children of the Dust Bowl: The True Story of the School at Weedpatch Camp by Jerry Stanley. 

6 yr. old boy Enjoys gaming books/encyclopedia like books, Dog Man (🤦🏻‍♀️), and is reading Harry Potter (very slowly). Looking for easier fiction chapter books. Loves robots and Minecraft.

True confession, I kinda like Dog Man. Hehe. I put my head together with Benjamin on this one We think Secret Coders because he likes games. The Hidden Stairs and the Magic Carpet (The Secrets of Droon, Book 1) is magical fantasy like Harry Potter, but reads much more quickly. Both Binky the Space Cat (A Binky Adventure) and Mameshiba: On the Loose! are very physically funny and well plotted, like Dog Man, neither is quite as crude as the canine hero's books. BONUS: You know what else is great for this age? Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny series, four books so far.

13 year old girl who looooves audio books. Reads above her level, loves animals, hates teen drama.

Ooh. Ok my first audiobook recommendation is always The Wee Free Men. Top notch. Protagonist is a twelve or thirteen year old girl. Absolutely zero teen drama. And it's a series. And it has animals. Next, I'll recommend I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives. I personally read this one, but have heard from a couple sources that the audio is excellent. And I can say for the sure the book is great.  This is non-fiction about a girl in the USA and her pen pal in Zimbabwe. There is maybe a smidge of teen drama? But it's like "this teen drama is useless, I'm getting it out of my life." Lastly, and I don't know how this one is on audio, I'll recommend Homecoming (The Tillerman Cycle)by Cynthia Voigt. I'm actually hosting book club for it tonight. The second book, Dicey's Song, won a Newbery. I'm going to read it as soon as book club is over (didn't want to muddle the series in my head). Just in case you need it, here is a link for a free trial to audible: Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks. I found out recently that you don't have to have an ongoing membership in order to purchase audiobooks on Audible, so that's nice! BONUS: True Tales of Animal Heroes.

5 year old who is still working on her reading skills and loves princesses, dress up and ballet.

Definitely gotta read Princess Cora and the Crocodile with her! It's a short chapter book, brilliantly illustrated. Could definitely read it to her in one sitting, if your daughter wants you to. My 5yo also adores The Princess in Black books. The latest is book 6, The Princess in Black and the Science Fair Scare. So fun, the way the series is developing.

8 year old girl is 8 but reads at 5th grade level or higher.. So it's hard to find a book that is both at her reading level and maturity level. I feel like so many of the books she wants to read are a bit older theme wise- the books at her age level she blows through in like an hour.

Oh, girl, I know what you mean. I'll recommend The Neverending Story and The Jungle Book (Note: Amazon seems to have some issues with The Jungle Book. The reviews for all editions appear under every edition. Also, other weirdness.) The Neverending Story isn't neverending, unfortunately, but it's really long and good and age appropriate. Levi and I listened to The Jungle Book a while back (I love it narrated by Flo Gibson) and he bought the abridged version of it from his scholastic book order just this month. Here's the link for the audio I love, which I listened to through audible. The Jungle Book (Classic Books on CD Collection) [UNABRIDGED] (Classics on CD)Free trials for the win.

Definitely also check out this post and this post for more series.

11 year old girl Not into princesses or Harry Potter. Likes animals. Her favorite book series so far is The Red Pyramid.

I'll recommend Anubis Speaks!: A Guide to the Afterlife by the Egyptian God of the Dead. I read this narrative non-fiction book a couple of years ago and thought it would be a fantastic companion to The Red Pyramid series. Same gods, different perspective, really engaging writing. Looks like two more books have come out in the series, Secrets of the Ancient Gods, they are Thor Speaks and Hades Speaks. (So, probably the Norse and Greek takes.) Thanks for reminding me of this...I bet my son would love these now.

Twin girls age 12
When I was 12 all I wanted was to be 17, so I'm going to say these 12 year olds want something good and clean but with a cover that looks sooo grown up. And for that I recommend Princess of the Midnight Ball (Twelve Dancing Princesses Book 1) by Jessica Day George. I have read and thoroughly enjoyed this book (though it wasn't available when I was 12). There are two more books in the series, but this book stands alone well.

In realistic fiction I have to recommend Every Soul A Star by Wendy Mass and Crunchby Leslie Connor. Both of these are standalones.

In Graphic novels I have to recommend The Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks and Compass South: A Graphic Novel (Four Points, Book 1) by Hope Larson. Both of these have further books in the series.

Twin girls age 9

I'm going to go with Real Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham, and Phoebe and Her Unicorn by Dana Simpson. Both of these are graphics. Real Friends is a memoir and Phoebe and Her Unicorn is a collected comic strip (many volumes are now available). If they like drawing I'd go with If Found...Please Return to Elise Gravel by Elise Gravel. If they want more words, try Savvy or The Girl Who Drank the Moon (two recent Newbery winners, fantasy genre).

5 year old boy
Definitely New Shoes by Sara Varon. My 5 year old daughter was so sad to see this one go back to the library. Or, if you'd prefer a picture book to a graphic novel, Land Shark is a lot of fun. You mentioned perhaps getting What Do They Do with All That Poo?. I havne't read it, but it sounds perfect for the age. :)

3 year old girl
Bedtime for Mommy This depicts a ~5 year old girl putting her mommy to bed. Or, since she has a baby sibling, I Kissed the Baby! by Mary Murphy.

My baby is a big fan of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? right now, but that's a classic. If you need something they don't already have, try Everywhere Babies by Marla Frazee.

Good escapism read for my brother's busy busy wife
Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal or for some short, funny fiction, Mulliner Nights (P.G.Wodehouse).

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