Monday, June 27, 2011

Book Talk Tuesday!

Kelly Butcher, over at The Lemme Library Blog, generously hosts a weekly forum for sharing children's book reviews every Tuesday. A couple of weeks ago, however, Kelly's husband took a spill and fractured his ankle. To help her out, I'll be hosting Book Talk Tuesday for her this week.

Here are Kelly's (and thereby my) rules:

  1. All content must be appropriate for children in grades kindergarten through eighth grade.
  2. Websites that you link to must be child friendly since lots of kids visit this site and if they click on your link, I want it to be appropriate for them.
  3. Positive reviews only, please...we only spread love here at the Lemme Library (and LitLad)!
  4. Books must be available in the US. (You are welcome to link to ARC reviews.)
  5. I reserve the right to remove any reviews that don't meet criteria 1-4.

In the link title field, be sure to include the title of the book you are reviewing and your site name. In the URL field, please link to the specific post that contains the book review. (That way, people don't have to scour your blog looking for it.)

After you submit your link, please leave a comment for this post! To help me with my future ice cream tour of America, let me know in your comment your favorite local ice cream parlor. If you can't or don't eat ice cream, answer this (courtesy of our new favorite book, The Faraway Tree Stories) instead: If there are a hundred pages in a book, how many books would there be on the shelf?

Have a great week, and thanks for posting!

Books of the Week: The Faraway Tree Stories, You Can Count on Monsters

Here are our favorites from last week:

Tintin (8) and Johnny Boo (5)

The Faraway Tree Stories
Author/illustrator: Enid Blyton/Jill Newton
Publisher: Egmont Books (July 2002)
Source: Public library

The Faraway Tree Stories comprises three books: The Enchanted Wood, The Magic Faraway Tree, and The Folk of the Faraway Tree, originally published in 1939, 1943, and 1946, respectively. Joe, Beth, and Frannie (the girls' names were changed from Bessie and Fannie in the version we have) move to the country and find the most amazing tree in the woods behind their house. The Enchanted Wood is full of talking animals, elves, and whispering trees, while the Faraway Tree is home to the Angry Pixie, Dame Washalot, Mr. Watzisname, Moon-Face, and a fairy named Silky. The children become especially friendly with Moon-Face, Silky, and the Saucepan Man, a funny man covered in saucepans and kettles who moves in with Watzisname. Every chance they get they climb to the top of the tree, past all kinds of fruits and nuts, up a ladder and through a hole in the clouds, until they reach a new land. They explore the Land of Take-What-You-Want, the Land of Secrets, the Land of Treats, and many others, and if they're not careful the three children and their friends might get stuck in one of these lands when it moves away from the Faraway Tree and a new land comes to stay. Sometimes the lands are full of fun, like the Land of Birthdays, and sometimes they're full of danger, like the Land of Tempers, but there's always an adventure to be had.

The Faraway Tree Stories has now become both boys' "favorite book ever." I 've been reading it to them during breakfast and snack time, and every time I'd come to the end of a chapter and read the next chapter title, I'd hear, "Do it! Do it!" It's the perfect read-aloud for children, from preschool to middle grade, and I'm pretty sure my boys would have me start it all over again if someone else hadn't already put a hold on it at the library.

Tintin's note: It was a good adventure. The Faraway Tree Stories is the best story adventure.

Johnny Boo's note: It's my favorite book ever.

Find it: Amazon

You Can Count on Monsters: The First 100 Numbers and Their Characters
Author/illustrator: Richard Evan Schwartz
Publisher: A K Peters, Ltd. (January 2010)
Source: Public library

The goal of You Can Count on Monsters is to teach children about prime numbers and factoring, and to give them a fun and creative way to learn multiplication. Tintin has already mastered many multiplication facts, thanks in part to an excellent video game adventure called Timez Attack, and Johnny Boo is nowhere near learning about multiplication (he has threatened to quit school after 1st grade so he won't have to learn it), but this is a great book for both of them. Tintin can still learn a lot from this book (once he stops focusing solely on the illustrations), and until he becomes more interested in math, Johnny Boo at least has a unique art book to look through. They absolutely love the monsters, each of which represents a different prime number. The prime number monsters combine to form a new scene with composite numbers. There is also a monster for the number 1, but it's "a bit disappointed because it doesn't get to interact with any of the other monsters."

Tintin's note: The monsters were totally silly and awesome.

Johnny Boo's note: It was a totally silly book.

Find it: Amazon, IndieBound

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer Reading Is Not Killing Him

In the last few days, Tintin has read more than 50 books, most of them picture books. His requirement for the library summer reading program for the whole summer is 50 books. Today, the first day of summer, he started and finished Summer Reading Is Killing Me (The Time Warp Trio). He's in the middle of Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger. He just came downstairs, at 10:30 p.m., to tell me he's completed the first row of the picture below (although he's only read two adventures in the Dungeons & Dragons book) and has now started Staged Fright (Ruby Gloom). Below are all of the books he's going to read, in order, this summer (not including library books he doesn't have yet). He laid this out earlier tonight:

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Books of the Week: The Stories Julian Tells, Tales from the Odyssey, Ladybug Girl, Scaredy Squirrel

Here are our favorites from the past week:

Tintin, age 8

The Stories Julian Tells
Author/illustrator: Ann Cameron/Ann Strugnell
Publisher: Turtleback (January 1989)
Source: Public library

Julian's just a regular boy who has a knack for telling stories, some of which are not always true. He convinces his younger brother, Huey, that cats will jump out of their seed catalog and help them with their garden, and he talks himself into believing that eating the leaves from his fig tree will make him grow taller. Sometimes Julian's mischief gets him into trouble, like the time his father brings him downstairs for a whipping after he and his brother eat their mother's lemon pudding. To Julian's relief, his dad's idea of a whipping is much different from his own. I took this book out to read to Johnny Boo at bedtime, but Tintin grabbed it as soon as we were done and is now on More Stories Julian Tells.

Tintin's note: I liked when Julian's father tried to pull out his tooth by tying it to a string and then to a doorknob and then yanking it.

Find it: Amazon, IndieBound

Tales from the Odyssey, Part One
Author: Mary Pope Osborne
Publisher: Hyperion (May 2010)
Source: Scholastic book fair/home library

The first part of Tales from the Odyssey comprises three books: The One-Eyed Giant, The Land of the Dead, and Sirens and Sea Monsters. There are three more books in Part Two. As you might guess, both parts are a retelling of Odysseus's great journey, first told by Greek poet Homer. Osborne does a fantastic job making this tale accessible to young readers. It's an exciting adventure with giants, gods, witches, and sirens, and even though it's pretty long (250+ pages), the larger font makes it easy to read.

Tintin's note: It was a good book. It was a very good adventure. All the adventures in it were so wonderful. I feel free to read the next one.

Find it: Amazon, IndieBound

Johnny Boo, age 5

Ladybug Girl and the Bug Squad
Author/illustrator: David Soman & Jacky Davis
Publisher: Dial (March 2011)
Source: Public library

Ladybug Girl has invited her friends over for a Bug Squad play date. Besides Ladybug Girl, there's Bumblebee Boy, Butterfly Girl, and Dragonfly Girl, each with his or her own superpowers. They of course play Bug Squad but then make some art at Ladybug Girl's picnic table and eat cupcakes together. For Ladybug Girl, it starts out as the perfect play date, but trouble starts when things don't go exactly the way she imagined them. Luckily, she learns an important lesson about saying sorry and the day is saved.

Johnny Boo's note: Ladybug Girl is about a girl named Lulu and she had a ladybug costume. It was great and freakin' and awesome and rockin'. I liked when Bingo got wings.

Find it: Amazon, IndieBound

Scaredy Squirrel Has a Birthday Party
Author/illustrator: Mélanie Watt
Publisher: Kids Can Press (February 2011)
Source: Public library

It's time for Scaredy's birthday party, but he's too scared to let anyone else come. He finally invites one thoughtful friend, but then that friend brings a bunch of other friends. Scaredy goes into panic mode and fears the worst. When he realizes he's still alive after fainting from all of the excitement, Scaredy deems his birthday party a success and starts planning for next year.

Johnny Boo's note: Scaredy Squirrel reminds me of Cat in the Hat because it has animals in it. I liked the confetti part at the end.

Find it: Amazon, IndieBound

We also reread some old favorites: Ladybug Girl, Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy, the Daniel Boom AKA Loud Boy series, Sardine in Outer Space, and The Clouds Above.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

5-Year-Old Boy's Review: Hot Hands and the Weirdo Winter

Review by Johnny Boo, age 5

Hot Hands and the Weirdo Winter
Author/illustrator: Derrick Brown/Matthew Carver
Publisher: Write Fuzzy (January 2010)
Source: The publisher

Hot Hands freaks everyone out because her gloves are made out of metal and her hands are fire. A little boy went to school and he fell in love with Margo. The boy made a snowman for Margo because when she builds one the snowman always burns out. I like this book because it's so awesome and great and rockin'. It teaches me that you should be a friend. My favorite part is when the boy met Margo. The art was so great that I freaked out. I would recommend this book to kids who have hot hands.

LitLass's note: Ralph is the new kid at school. Until he meets Margo, or Hot Hands as everyone calls her, he doesn't have any friends. Margo's hands are made out of fire and she's shunned by her classmates because of it. Ralph doesn't care that Margo is different. In fact, he thinks being weird is good (he'd like Johnny Boo). He finds lots of good things about Margo, and about her hot hands. He says to her, "I would never be afraid of the dark if I could carry around the sun!" Together Ralph and Margo learn what it means to be a true friend.

At the end of Hot Hands is a picture of Margo with a blank face. As soon as we finished reading the book the first time, Johnny Boo ran to the office with it and made two copies. Here are his drawings:

Ralph and Margo make a caramel popcorn snowman together. Tintin (8) made our popcorn, Johnny Boo helped make the caramel, and Tintin and I made the snowmen (our recipe). Johnny Boo would have helped with a snowman, but he was nursing his own hot hands after touching the stovetop. He was much better after having his snowman.

Thanks to Write Fuzzy for the book! We'll have a review of another Write Fuzzy book, also by Derrick Brown, up soon.

Find Hot Hands and the Weirdo Winter: Amazon, Write Fuzzy

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Word of the Week/Ramona the Brave

It's time for our Word of the Week feature here at LitLad. Here's how it works: Every Sunday the boys and I read a book from which they pick their favorite-sounding unfamiliar word. They each write the word that night and we try to use it in conversation as much as we can throughout the week. According to The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease, "the only words children learn having heard them only once are the words you wish you had never said in front of them."

This week's word is spunky, an adjective meaning "lively, determined, and brave."

And we're reading Ramona the Brave, in which it says: She was determined that today would be different. She would make it different. She was her father's spunky gal, wasn't she?

Ramona the Brave
Author/illustrator: Beverly Cleary/Tracy Dockray
Publisher: HarperCollins (March 1975)
Source: Public library

Ramona is now in first grade, and although she can still be a pest at times, she's trying hard to grow up. She learns to read more grown-up words; she gets her own room (with imaginary monsters); and she becomes the bravest girl in the first grade, all while getting into the usual amount of trouble.

Tintin's note: My favorite part was when Ramona threw her shoe at the dog. I thought the dog might think it was stinky.

Johnny Boo's note: I liked when Ramona freaked out when she saw the dog.

And Tintin, from another room: He always says "freaked out." Don't believe him!

Johnny Boo, later: I liked when Ramona said, "Guts!"

Johnny Boo's drawing of the two Quimby sisters, with cut-off arms:

Find it: Amazon, IndieBound

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Books of the Week: Magic Tree House, The Scrambled States of America, Jumanji, Zathura

Here are our favorites from the past week:

Tintin, age 8

Magic Tree House #29: Christmas in Camelot
Author/illustrator: Mary Pope Osborne/Sal Murdocca
Publisher: Random House (October 2001)
Source: Public library

In this Magic Tree House fantasy adventure, Jack and Annie go on a quest to save Camelot from being forgotten forever. They must solve the rhymes of the Christmas knight; rescue Lancelot, Percival, and Galahad from the Otherworld; and bring back the Water of Memory and Imagination. Of course, there are a couple of obstacles standing in their way, but Jack and Annie are experienced adventurers. Christmas in Camelot doesn't have a whole lot to do with Christmas, so it's a good read for Magic Tree House fans any time of the year.

Tintin's note: I like Christmas in Camelot because I like how they go on the adventure and see four dragons.

Find it: Amazon

Johnny Boo, age 5

The Scrambled States of America; The Scrambled States of America Talent Show
Author/illustrator: Laurie Keller
Publisher: Henry Holt (October 1998; August 2008)
Source: Home library; public library

It all begins when Kansas complains to Nebraska about how boring it is to stay in one place all the time. Nebraska agrees and they get some of their neighbors to help plan a party for all 50 states. The states soon decide to switch places with one another for a little while to see what it's like living somewhere else. Other than Nevada and Mississippi, who fall in love, the states realize they were better off before. In Talent Show, the states get together once again, but this time they wisely go home after some much needed laughter.

Johnny Boo's note: I liked it because there was a lot of freaking out in it.

Find them: Amazon (Scrambled States; Scrambled States Talent Show)

Tintin & Johnny Boo

Author/illustrator: Chris Van Allsburg
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin (April 1981)
Source: Public library

When two bored children find a board game in the park across the street, they have no idea just how un-boring their lives are about to become. Peter and Judy take turns rolling the dice, but with just about every move comes yet another scary situation. They finally finish the game and realize it's not so bad to be bored once in a while.

Johnny Boo's note: It was a great jungle adventure and I liked it so much that I freaked out.

Find it: Amazon

Author/illustrator: Chris Van Allsburg
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin (October 2002)
Source: Public library

In this followup to Jumanji, Peter and Judy's neighbors find the board game after Peter and Judy drop it back off at the park. Brothers Walter and Danny are fighting but then see the game and bring it home. Instead of playing Jumanji, they find a space-themed board game hiding underneath. As in Jumanji, Zathura comes to life, and the boys face danger with every move. They stop their bickering and learn to work together, but will a black hole tear them apart forever?

Tintin's note: I liked when they were in the spaceship and the robot came alive and they were scared. I liked when the boy was in the black hole.

Find it: Amazon

Monday, June 6, 2011

Books of the Week: The Dragon of Doom; Mother & Son Tales; My Father's Dragon; Pearl and Wagner

Here are our favorites from last week:

Tintin, age 8

The Dragon of Doom (Moongobble and Me)
Author/illustrator: Bruce Coville/Katherine Coville
Publisher: Aladdin (January 2005)
Source: Public library

In part 1 of a trilogy, Young Edward gets a job helping Moongobble the Magician, who happens to need a lot of help, seeing as how all of his spells keep turning things into cheese. When Moongobble fails to prove he is good enough to join the Society of Magicians, the head of the society gives him one more chance: Moongobble must face the Dragon of Doom and bring back the Golden Acorns of Alcoona. Edward, of course, insists on coming along, but can he help the magician before being turned into cheese?

Tintin's note: My favorite part was when they found out that the Dragon of Doom was little.

Find it: Amazon, IndieBound

The Barefoot Book of Mother and Son Tales
Author/illustrator: Josephine Evetts-Secker/Helen Cann
Publisher: Barefoot Books (February 1999)
Source: Public library

Ten tales of mothers and sons from around the world are retold in this book. Each tale tells of the bond between mother and son. There are giantesses and ogres, a goddess and a genie. And boys named Snot-Nose and Cinderello. At the end of the book is a notes section, which covers such topics as the mother-son bond, the mother and luck, separation, and recurring symbols. Tintin has enjoyed listening to me read these tales to him, but he's also brought the book up to his room to read by himself.

Tintin's note: My favorite story was "Snot-Nose" because he kept doing funny things with the ogres.

Find it: Amazon

Johnny Boo, age 5

Three Tales of My Father's Dragon
Author/illustrator: Ruth Stiles Gannett/Ruth Chrisman Gannett
Publisher: Random House (1998)
Source: Home library

Originally published between 1948 and 1951, these three tales--My Father's Dragon, Elmer and the Dragon, and The Dragons of Blueland--tell the story of Elmer Elevator and his new friend, Boris the flying dragon. Elmer has always wanted to fly. When a stray cat tells him of a flying dragon in a faraway land, Elmer sets off to find the dragon, save him from his captors, and fly off with him. Elmer goes through a lot to save the poor dragon, but once he finally does the adventure is not yet over. They face a terrible storm and are forced to land on Feather Island, where the king is dying of the island disease, and they must save Boris's family, who are trapped in a cave. I read this with Tintin a couple of years ago, and it became one of his favorite books. Now Johnny Boo has fallen in love with it, as I knew he would.

Johnny Boo's note: I thought My Father's Dragon was great and awesome because I like when his father rescued the dragon because it was a good part and the people who saw the dragon freaked out.

Find it: Amazon, IndieBound

Pearl and Wagner: Two Good Friends
Author/illustrator: Kate McMullan/R.W. Alley
Publisher: Dial (September 2003); Grosset & Dunlap (September 2011)
Source: Public library

Pearl and Wagner are best friends. In each of this book's three chapters, they prove what good friends they really are, whether they are losing together at the science fair or making up with each other after one hurts the other's feelings. Not only is this a good book about friendship, it's also one that boosts Johnny Boo's confidence in reading.

Johnny Boo's note: I like when Pearl said, "Do you like my new green boots, Wagner?" It was great and awesome.

Find it: Amazon, IndieBound

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

8-Year-Old Boy's Review: The Diamond Tree & Margaret the Medusa

Reviews by Tintin, age 8

The Diamond Tree
Author: Michael Matson
Publisher: Untreed Reads Publishing (July 2010)
Source: The publisher

The Diamond Tree is about a prince [Prince Dall] who goes on a quest to find the diamond tree to break the spell and turn it back into a princess. Her tears turn into diamonds. He goes to a castle and the angry prince likes riddles, so he gave a riddle to him. And then he solves it and then the Prince of Rage said, "Don't say the name!" And then he ran and then he fell. I like the adventure that [Prince Dall] went on. My favorite part was when the Prince of Rage fell into the moat. My favorite character was the Prince of Rage because he was silly. I would recommend this book to people who like going on scary adventures.

LitLass's note: Prince Dall is the youngest of four brothers. When it comes time to prove himself and win honor, the prince finds out there's nothing left to accomplish. His three older brothers have already defeated the two-headed dragon, the giant, and the evil wizard. Dall soon receives some information from an old woman, however, that convinces him there might just be one more exciting quest left for him. The Diamond Tree has the perfect amount of adventure for an 8-year-old boy and makes for a great read-aloud.

Find it: Amazon (Kindle), The Untreed Reads Store (PDF, EPUB, Palm Reader)

Margaret the Medusa
Author/illustrator: Sunny C. Griffith/L. Aerin Collett
Publisher: Untreed Reads Publishing (February 2011)
Source: The publisher

Margaret the Medusa is about a medusa named Margaret who looks ugly and can't find any friends. I like when Margaret says to the boy, "I can't turn you into stone!" and the boy says, "I'm already in stone. I'm a gargoyle!" And then Margaret and the gargoyle became friends. I like how they made friends. I would recommend this book to people who like ancient monsters.

LitLass's note: Margaret just wants to fit in at school and have friends, but no one likes her. No matter how much she tries to be like everyone else, she's still a medusa, with snakes for hair and eyes that'll turn people into stone if she removes her glasses. Her classmates are scared of her, except for one boy who shows Margaret that it's okay to be herself. Tintin likes anything having to do with Greek mythology, so this one was a winner.

Find it: Amazon (Kindle), The Untreed Reads Store (PDF, EPUB, Kindle, Microsoft Reader)

Thank you to Untreed Reads Publishing for providing these books for review!