Tag Archives: Children’s books

WWW Wednesdays – November 6, 2013

WWW Wednesdays

My bookshelf

The Optimistic Child by Martin Selingman– What I’m currently reading
The Optimistic Child by Martin Selingman. I found a reference to this book in How Children Succeed and I wanted to learn more about the subject. I’m starting this book today.

– What I recently finished reading
How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough. This is a very interesting book full of research data and analysis with the goal to pinpoint what really makes our children successful in life. And by that, you should read what really makes a child graduate from high school, go on and graduate from college and then hold a job and be a productive part of society. Paul Tough demonstrates throughout his book that IQ levels and SAT scores are not accurate measurements to predict a child’s success (but GPA levels are and he explains why). Children can be taught many materials and learn a large amount of information but in the end, what really matters is their self-control, resilience, and perseverance, to name a few under the “character” umbrella. Tough doesn’t explain at all how to help your children develop these qualities but he does name a few books that will, including The Optimistic Child.

A Wind In The Door by Madeleine L’Engle. As much as I liked A Wrinkle In Time, I wasn’t impressed with its sequel. Don’t misunderstand me, I really like the story, the characters and what happens to them, but I’m not crazy about the way the story itself is told. I’m not sure L’Engle develops each character neatly and thoroughly, and she tends to use a lot of words and dialogs to describe little action. I also found some of the things that happened in this book quite loopy. I guess the 1960s and 70s can do that to you. I’d like to read the next book in the series but I think I’ll take a break from it for now.

– What I think I’ll read next
1984 by George Orwell. I know I said it would be my next book but I had to squeeze another one in between.

My kids’ bookshelf

What they’re currently reading
We’re big fans of Splat The Cat at our house. I mean, what’s not to like about a big, clumsy black ball of fur who has a mouse as a best friend? I love Rob Scotton’s illustrations too. They make me want to pet Splat’s fluffy fur on every page. Scotton’s had a lot of Splat The Cat books out, some of them written by him, others inspired by his character and franchised in an early reader book format. We haven’t read those yet but I do have a few, so I’ll probably review them in my next update. Here are a couple of the large format books we’re reading right now for the first time:
Splat The Cat And The Cool School TripSplat The Cat And The Cool School Trip: Splat’s class is making its way to the zoo and Splat can’t wait to see his favorite animals, the penguins! But it seems that Splat’s teacher, Mrs Wimpydimple, has every animal on her list except the… penguins. Somehow, Seymour the mouse makes its way into the elephant exhibit, scaring the elephant who runs into the exhibit next door and damages it. Can you guess which exhibit that is? Yep, when the class finally gets to the penguin exhibit, it’s closed for the day. But wait, Seymour has more than one trick up his sleeve and may turn today into Penguin Day after all… My kids love, love, love this story, as they can relate to visiting their favorite animals at the zoo and how disappointing it would be not to see them. The ending is a child’s dream come true for sure.
Splat The Cat Says Thank You: Splat’s best friend Seymour the mouse is sick and Splat has just what he thinks Seymour needs to get better: a whole thank-you book! Splat reminds Seymour of the many (hilarious) adventures when Seymour was there for him, and Splat thanks him for every time. But somehow, Seymour is still not feeling better. Will the thank-you book do the trick? My kids asked me to flip the pages and read the book faster every time Splat didn’t manage to make Splat feel better. I’m not sure they could take the suspense for much longer, poor guys! I love this idea of a thank-you book and I hope my kids will work on a project like that on their own one day.

Pete The Cat: I Love My White Shoes by James Dean– What they recently finished reading
We’re big fans of another cat, this time Pete The Cat by James Dean and other various writers. The original Pete The Cat: I Love My White Shoes book came out a few years ago and we still have to go on the publisher’s website to listen to the Pete The Cat song. Since then, more books have come out, some in large format, others in early reader format. Hey, when you have a popular book idea, why not make kids happy with more adventures of your cute feline? And these books really show you that you don’t have to have the most perfect illustrations for a children’s book. Kids actually love to see books with illustrations they could draw or paint themselves.
My five-year old is a great reader already and the 64-page early reader book format is perfect for him. He needs help with a few words here and there, but otherwise, he can read the whole book by himself and he has a lot of fun doing it. Some of the books we’ve enjoyed are:
Pete The Cat: Pete's Big LunchPete The Cat: Pete At The Beach. Pete wants to learn to surf like his brother but he’s afraid to go in the water. How long will it take Pete to give it a try and will it be worth it? Hey, who doesn’t want to flip the pages to see Pete The Cat on a surfboard?
Pete The Cat: Pete’s Big Lunch. Pete is hungry and decides to make a sandwich, adding on to it at every page because he happens to be very, very, very hungry. Did I say Pete was hungry? When his sandwich is finished, Pete realizes how huge it is and he knows he won’t be able to eat it all by himself. So he decides to invite his friends for lunch. This is a great lesson on sharing!
Pete The Cat: Play Ball! Pete’s team is playing a game today and Pete wants to do his best, but he’s not so lucky when it’s his time to bat. The pitcher isn’t so good and Pete gets to walk to first base. Pete isn’t so good at running to the next base, or batting when it’s his turn again. What will Pete do when things don’t go this way? Well, guess what? He’s OK, because he tried his best and he’s having a great time. What a great lesson on sportsmanship and how to enjoy playing the game the whole way through! This is definitely a winner at our house!

– What I think they’ll read next
I don’t know but I’m sure it will be good stuff. What about you? Any books you or your kids are reading you’d like to share?

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WWW Wednesdays – October 30, 2013

WWW Wednesdays

My bookshelf

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough– What I’m currently reading
How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough. A fascinating read so far. It really throws a lot of preconceived ideas of what/how we should teach our children out of the window.
A Wind In The Door by Madeleine L’Engle. After enjoying A Wrinkle In Time so much, I thought I’d go ahead and read the other books in the series. You can read my review of A Wrinkle In Time here.

– What I recently finished reading
Operation Family Secrets: How a Mobster’s Son and the FBI Brought Down Chicago’s Murderous Crime Family by Frank Calabrese, Jr. I probably wouldn’t have picked this book off the shelf out of my own curiosity but I had to read it for my book club. And in the end, I’m glad I read this book and this fascinating true story about the lives and deaths of Chicago mafia mobsters. It was interesting to learn how families got into the “business”, and how hard it was/is to get out. Reading about the many cold-blooded executions, the money schemes, the corruption, all of whom have inspired the famous movies we’ve all seen felt surreal. I just kept turning the pages thinking, wow, that stuff really happens in real life. I can’t imagine how much courage it took Calabrese Jr. to take down most of his family and associates, including his own father and uncle.

The Seneca Scourge by Carrie RubinThe Seneca Scourge by Carrie Rubin (at The Write Transition). I have two words to describe this book: page turner. I usually don’t read medical thrillers, not because I don’t like them, but rather because I don’t know which ones I should read. The last one was Coma by Robin Cook, and even though it had its faults, it kept me on the edge. And that’s what The Seneca Scourge did too. I got sucked right in from the beginning and had a hard time putting the book down. I actually read the last 100 pages in one night because I wanted to know how it all ended before I went to sleep! I enjoyed the medical content, which was explained quite clearly, and the story twist was a great addition, giving the book a touch of sci-fi. Rubin describes the disease and its effects on people very well, and I command her for not including any gruesome details about dying children to try to make her book more sensational. I should add this book contains plenty of suspense, which definitely keeps you on the edge of your seat. I could totally picture this story turned into a movie, by the way. If you’re looking for a good medical thriller to add to your list, this is a good one.

Defending Jacob by William Landay. An interesting story on a district attorney’s teenage son being accused of murder, but in my opinion, nothing more. This book is easy to read but could have used a lot of editing, especially as some of the dialogs go on and on. Maybe they can go on like that in court, but reading them gets tiresome. The same goes for dialogs between people. How many times can you ask the same question to your spouse or child in one conversation? I’m also not crazy how the author decided to tell the story: the father narrates today what happened in the past, hinting at things “he should have seen”. Well, duh, they’re pretty obvious to see as you read them. And really, the ending was no surprise. It wasn’t a shocking twist either. I guess if you’re a big fan of legal thrillers, you’ll like this book. Otherwise, it’s good, but not great.

– What I think I’ll read next
1984 by George Orwell. I haven’t read this book for years and it will be nice to read it with a fresh perspective.

My kids’ bookshelf

What they’re currently reading
Bats at the beach by Brian LiesBats At The Library and Bats At The Beach by Brian Lies. We’ve read these books before and we loved the story and the illustrations so much, we wanted to read them again. Once darkness settles and the moon comes out, bats know how to entertain themselves, whether it’s by spending the night at the beach, making sandcastles, surfing, or roasting marshmallows and telling stories by the bonfire, or by flying to the library and enjoying a night of reading, storytelling and imaginary play. The rhythmic text and the enchanting paintings make these books pure magic.

We’ve fans of Jonathan London’s Froggy books so we had to catch up and read his latest ones: Froggy Builds a Tree House and Froggy's Worst Playdate by Jonathan LondonFroggy’s Worst Playdate. In Froggy’s Worst Playdate, Froggy’s friends are all busy and can’t play with him, so his mom decides to set up a playdate with… Frogilina, who really likes Froggy, but the feeling is not so mutual. Dad takes them to the movies and everything that could go wrong does, including a popcorn fight, bathroom breaks and a stolen kiss. Oh, and let’s not forget how Frogilina enjoys eating Froggy’s ice cream by crunching the bottom of his cone, making his ride home a “perfect” ending for his worst playdate! In Froggy Builds a Tree House, Froggy and his friends want to build a tree house (Froggy’s dad has to help out, a lot) but watch out, this house is for boys only! That makes Frogilina very upset but it doesn’t take long for her to save the day.

Bink & Gollie by Kate DiCamillo– What they recently finished reading
Kate DiCamillo’s brilliant Bink & Gollie’s new series, which includes Bink & Gollie, Bink & Gollie: Two For One, and Bink & Gollie: Best Friends Forever. Even though these books feature two female characters, my boys enjoyed them very much. Gollie is tall and fashionable, and a little snobbish and bossy. Bink is much shorter, loves pancakes and is always looking for a new adventure. I love how the two characters balance each other. Bink tends to act as a reality check for Gollie, who in my opinion is not the greatest role model for friendship. The funny illustrations are a perfect match to the characters and the stories.

– What I think they’ll read next
I don’t know but I’m sure it will be good stuff. What about you? Any books you or your kids are reading you’d like to share?

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WWW Wednesdays – October 9, 2013

WWW Wednesdays

Wow, I’m sooooo behind on my book updates, and it’s not for lack of reading. Let me catch up with what I’ve read, as well as feature a few great children’s books we’ve run into recently. I’ll share more of those in future posts as I get caught up with my backlog.

My bookshelf

Defending Jacob by William Landay– What I’m currently reading 
Defending Jacob by William Landay. An interesting story on a district attorney’s teenage son being accused of murder. I’m curious to see how it all ends, and I’ve had a pretty big suspicion since almost the beginning. Argh, I hope I’m not right about this…
The Seneca Scourge by Carrie Rubin. Carrie at The Write Transition must have had a fit when I told her I was finally reading her book. What can I say? I didn’t have an ebook reader when her book came out last year. I recently won a free electronic copy of her book and my kids were kind enough to share their new tablet to let me read the book on it so I don’t have to use my computer. I’m enjoying the read so far!

– What I recently finished reading
Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business by Neil PostmanAmusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business by Neil Postman. A fascinating read on the state of television in the mid 1980s. You’d think this book was outdated in today’s world, but it’s even more relevant with all the new technologies and the many changes that have happened on TV since then. I bet Neil Postman would roll his eyes in his tomb if he could watch only 5 minutes of the many reality shows that fill the screen every night. I enjoyed his journey explaining how writing in its own way replaced oral storytelling, and how television was the next progression. This book is filled with a lot of analysis on various TV programs, including the news and even Sesame Street. It explains how we fill our lives with so many trivial facts that really make no difference in improving our condition. Throughout the book, Postman refers to Husley’s 1984 novel and in the end, concludes that Huxley’s made-up world is not far off from where we are. A very compelling case on our addiction to the many forms of entertainment available out there.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. I can’t believe it took me so long to read this book but I’m glad I finally did! It was so interesting to read L’Engle’s interview at the end of the book, including the hard time she had to find a publisher for this specific story. This was the very first sci-fi/fantasy book written for young adults and she said it was too different for publishers to take a risk at the time. I really enjoyed her storytelling, how each character was likable and made me feel for them. And the moral of the story is a universal truth: only love can conquer evil. I can’t wait to read the next books in the series. I recommend this book to anyone age 9 and up.

To Dance With The White Dog by Terry Kay. A blogger recommended this story on her blog a few months ago and I feel terrible because I can’t remember who it was. If you recognize yourself, please chime in, as this was a great recommendation. This book tells the beautiful story about an old man losing his wife and living on without her. His children live nearby and do their best to make sure dad is OK, as dad tries hard to maintain his independence. As he starts telling his children about the white dog that has suddenly appeared but only he can seem to see, they (and the reader) start wondering if he’s losing his mind. This is a tender story about life, love and perseverance. I really, really liked this book and highly recommend the short read.

Cross My Heart, Hope to Die by Sara Shepard, the fifth book in The Lying Game series. After reading about a hundred pages of this book, I decided to put it down. As much as I’ve enjoyed reading the series so far and crossing off suspect after suspect from the list, I’ve reached my limit. This book is more of the same, making you wonder if one of the characters is the murderer or not, and it’s getting old. I think I’ll read the very last book of the series when it comes out, just to find out how it unravels.

Echo Burning by Lee Child, the #5 book in the Jack Reacher series. One thing I like about the Jack Reacher series is the consistency of the main character’s behavior and action. I enjoy discovering new aspects of his personality and skills in each book. The one thing I like best is how every book is different and keeps you guessing until the end. This one did just the trick. I scratched my head trying to figure it out as the story was bouncing me around from one possibility to another. The ending was quite a surprise and I enjoyed this book very much. Can’t wait to read the next one!

– What I think I’ll read next
How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough. I saw this book at my kids’ school book fair recently and thought it could be an interesting read. 

My kids’ bookshelf

What they’re currently reading
Chowder and The Fabulous Bouncing Chowder by Peter Brown. These are some of the funniest books we’ve read in a while. Peter Brown is a talented illustrator but he also happens to be a children’s book author with a great sense of humor. And he’s not worried about pushing the envelope and going where no other children’s book author has gone become. Chowder is a bulldog who behaves more like a human than a dog, in many ways. My youngest told me I should share the first page of Chowder and he even took this photo with my phone.

Chowder by Peter Brown

I have to admit it took us a few minutes to stop laughing long enough so I could continue reading. It didn’t help that a few pages later, I misread that Chowder’s owners bought him “toy dogs” to keep him busy, instead of “dog toys” (wouldn’t toy dogs be really funny?). We’re definitely going to read these two hilarious books a few times more before we decide to return them to the library.

 – What they recently finished reading
Elmer the patchwork elephant by David McKeeWe’ve finally read a number of Elmer the patchwork elephant books by David McKee. Elmer is not only different looking physically, but he also is a great jokester with the other elephants and animals. Now, if you can get past the elephants, lions and tigers (yes, tigers) living happily all together. Oh, and a few kangaroos too… I guess that’s what happens in a borderless world.

– What I think they’ll read next
I don’t know but I’m sure it will be good stuff. What about you? Any books you or your kids are reading you’d like to share?

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WWW Wednesdays – August 28, 2013

WWW Wednesdays

Wow, can you believe it’s been four weeks since my last WWW Wednesdays update? I have no idea what happened to this summer, but it seems to have flown by. I still managed to do some reading in the past few weeks, probably not as much as I like to. The books I’ve read were great, so I can’t complain. The kids have been pretty happy with their picks too.

Echo Burning by Lee ChildMy bookshelf

– What I’m currently reading
Echo Burning by Lee Child, the #5 book in the Jack Reacher series. I started with book #1 earlier this year and I only enjoy learning about Jack Reacher’s character even more with every book. He’s quite an interesting guy, that’s for sure! 

– What I recently finished reading
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Wonder by R.J. Palacio. What a wonderful book on not just physical differences but life in middle school – you know, that age when you’re not a kid anymore, but not a teenager yet. August’s extreme facial deformities and his first year of not being homeschooled are described from several points of view. I usually don’t enjoy books with different POVs but it didn’t bother me here, as the narrators tend to pick up the story where the previous narrator left off, while adding some insight on their relationship with Auggie. I think what I liked best about this book is how genuine and realistic every character’s behavior was, not too tame, not too extreme. Warning: I had to use a few tissues at the end of this book, but it filled me with hope and happiness. A must read for everyone  probably age 9 and over.

Heartburn by Nora Ephron. A very entertaining novel on the breaking up of a marriage that seemed doomed – or very happy, depending on how you see it – from the beginning. Although the story’s events are nothing to laugh about, Nora Ephron made me smile or laugh out loud at every chapter. It was hard for me to understand why the main character Rachel didn’t walk away from her cheating husband many years before and this short book felt a little too long in my opinion, but the funny ending made up for the wait.

Reliquary by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, the sequel to the Relic thriller. Another great thriller from Preston & Child and an interesting follow-up to Relic, even though you don’t have to read Relic to understand this story. It’s probably not a book to read late at night though. The gruesome details will keep you up and the suspense will make you want to read the next chapter. I guess that’s what good books do to you.

– What I think I’ll read next
Cross My Heart, Hope to Die by Sara Shepard, the fifth book in The Lying Game series. There will probably be another five books after this one before I find out who the real killer is, but at this point, reading this series is more of a guilty pleasure, especially since it’s an easy read.

My kids’ bookshelf

What they’re currently reading
In the Trees, Honey Bees by Lori MortensenIn the Trees, Honey Bees by Lori Mortensen. A super cool book on bees, with very short, rhyming phrases on every page, as well as a short blub on the life of bees on the opposite page. My kids really like this book and we’ve learned quite a few things about bees. The detailed illustrations are beautiful and very helpful in understanding more about bees.
19 Girls and Me by Darcy Pattison. John Hercules is worried about being the only boy in his kindergarten class, especially since his older brother keeps teasing him he’s going to turn into a “sissy”. But once John gets the girls to join him on his wild imaginary play at recess, he has a great time. What will his brother say though, as he sees him surrounded with girls at play? This is a great book to show how girls and boys can play together and all bring their personal ideas to make the play even better.

 – What they recently finished reading
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff KinneyThe Diary of A Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney. My oldest just turned seven and recently finished reading book #7 of Diary of a Wimpy Kid. He’s read every book in the series before this one several times and seems to really enjoy the stories. The only thing that bugs me  is that this series describes life in middle school but it’s written in such an easy format that my son could read these in first grade (OK, he’s reading way beyond his grade level, but still). It seems few books out there cater to the young but advanced readers. The books he likes to read deal with issues he won’t get to experience for several years and he may not have the maturity to understand them all. If you know of some great books that are challenging but appropriate for a seven-year old, please let me know. He’s read plenty already, but I’m sure there are some we don’t know about.
Santa Calls by William Joyce. This is another GREAT book that belongs on the permanent shelf of classic children’s books. When Santa invites Art Atchinson Aimesworth, his little sister Esther and his best friend Spaulding to join him to the North Pole for a special mission, they jump to the occasion. But when they reach the end of their adventure, they wonder why Santa needed their help after all. Only the reader and Esther find out the real reason, and it’s a great one. A wonderful story to read anytime of the year, and definitely to siblings together.

– What I think they’ll read next
I don’t know but I’m sure it will be good stuff. What about you? Any books you or your kids are reading you’d like to share?

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