Childrens book reviews by StorySnoops, judge a book by more than its cover, serving fresh scoops of new books for you every day
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Archive for the ‘Shannon – StorySnoop’ Category

20 Books for Tween Boys Reading Up

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

One of our lovely users recently commented that while we had lists for tween girls who read “up”, we had no such list for boys. Although we hear about the tween girls reading beyond their level (and age-appropriate material), we rarely hear this about boys. (Scratch head here.) But – that doesn’t mean there are not super-reader boys out there in the same boat! In fact, there are probably LOTS of younger boys who read  “up”, too.

For these boys (and their parents), we Snoops have come up with a list of books that will challenge their minds while still being as close to age-appropriate as possible.

Parents, while browsing this list, don’t forget to read our Scoops to make sure these are a good fit for your child, and be sure to let us know if you have any titles to add  :-)

Happy Reading!

-Shannon, StorySnoop

Ready for the scoop on this year’s Newbery winners?

Sunday, March 30th, 2014

Let’s start with the Honor books, shall we?

Doll Bones by Holly Black

Zach, Poppy and Alice have been friends forever. They love playing with their action figure toys, imagining a magical world of adventure and heroism. But disaster strikes when, without warning, Zach’s father throws out all his toys, declaring he’s too old for them. Zach is furious, confused and embarrassed, deciding that the only way to cope is to stop playing . . . and stop being friends with Poppy and Alice. But one night the girls pay Zach a visit, and tell him about a series of mysterious occurrences. Poppy swears that she is now being haunted by a china doll – who claims that it is made from the ground-up bones of a murdered girl. They must return the doll to where the girl lived, and bury it. Otherwise the three children will be cursed for eternity . . .

Here’s our Scoop: The Doll Bones is a haunting, imaginative, and oddly enough, endearing story from the co-author of The Spiderwick Chronicles. Three friends set off on a quest to investigate a girl’s mysterious death…(click here for the full review)

The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes

When Billy Miller has a mishap at the statue of the Jolly Green Giant at the end of summer vacation, he ends up with a big lump on his head. What a way to start second grade, with a lump on your head! As the year goes by, though, Billy figures out how to navigate elementary school, how to appreciate his little sister, and how to be a more grown up and responsible member of the family and a help to his busy working mom and stay-at-home dad. Newbery Honor author and Caldecott Medalist Kevin Henkes delivers a short, satisfying, laugh-out-loud-funny school and family story that features a diorama homework assignment, a school poetry slam, cancelled sleepovers, and epic sibling temper tantrums. This is a perfect short novel for the early elementary grades.

Here’s our Scoop: The Year of Billy Miller is from the award-winning and beloved author, Kevin Henkes. As usual, Henkes writes a story that is humorous, relatable, and very well-written. Both genders will enjoy this read, but boys…(click here for the full review)

One Came Home by Amy Timberlake

In the town of Placid, Wisconsin, in 1871, Georgie Burkhardt is known for two things: her uncanny aim with a rifle and her habit of speaking her mind plainly. But when Georgie blurts out something she shouldn’t, her older sister Agatha flees, running off with a pack of “pigeoners” trailing the passenger pigeon migration. And when the sheriff returns to town with an unidentifiable body—wearing Agatha’s blue-green ball gown—everyone assumes the worst. Except Georgie. Refusing to believe the facts that are laid down (and coffined) before her, Georgie sets out on a journey to find her sister. She will track every last clue and shred of evidence to bring Agatha home. Yet even with resolute determination and her trusty Springfield single-shot, Georgie is not prepared for what she faces on the western frontier.

Here’s our Scoop: One Came Home is a Newbery Honor book that is essentially, as western for kids. The main character is a strong, smart and humorous heroine, who goes out on a quest to solve the…(click here for the full review)

Paperboy by Vince Vawter

An 11-year-old boy living in Memphis in 1959 throws the meanest fastball in town, but talking is a whole different ball game. He can barely say a word without stuttering, not even his own name. So when he takes over his best friend’s paper route for the month of July, he knows he’ll be forced to communicate with the different customers, including a housewife who drinks too much and a retired merchant marine who seems to know just about everything.

The paper route poses challenges, but it’s a run-in with the neighborhood junkman, a bully and thief, that stirs up real trouble–and puts the boy’s life, as well as that of his family’s devoted housekeeper, in danger.

Here’s our Scoop: What I love about the book, The Paperboy , is that it demonstrates empathy on so many levels. The main character, Victor, has a terrible stutter making it hard…(click here for the full review)

Congrats to these outstanding books for receiving the Newbery Honor Award. I love that each are unique and very different from each other, but special in its own way.

In the next blog, we will bring you our review of this year’s Newberry Award Winner! Stay tuned….

–Shannon, StorySnoop

Our Summer of Reading (or not!)

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

It’s back to school time again, and as usual, I have mixed feeling about it. (By the way, since when is it OK to start school back up in mid-August?! That’s just mean…) While I must admit I’m ready to have a few seconds alone to myself during the way, the whole morning shuffle off to school is a little stressful compared to the lazy summer we just had around here.

There has been a lot of reading around my house this summer. I read a few grown-up books that have been on my list for a long time. And my youngest kids seem to have switched reading places. My teen daughter, an avid reader who could easily devour two books in a week, now divides her time between friends, Instagram, and a certain boy band she is obsessed with. Sadly for me, she probably only read two or three books this summer.

But my ten-year-old boy formerly-reluctant reader – he was a reading fiend this summer! And for him it is all about Percy Jackson (thank you Mr. Riordan!). He zipped through the entire series and couldn’t get enough so now he is on to the spin-off series.  He’s currently reading The Son of Neptune. I love seeing this enthusiasm. It really is like when you watch your kids learn to ride a bike for the first time. You take the training wheels off, they wobble a little, and then, before you know it – you are watching their back and they ride down the street. Getting hooked on reading is much the same way. And it is just as awesome to watch, isn’t it?

And as an afterthought: I am always glad when they make a movie of a children’s book because I think it can be an incentive to read the book first. It piques their interest. At least for my boys it did. I could recommend a book but they scoffed at it until they saw on T.V. that it was being made into a movie. My youngest and I saw the latest Percy Jackson on opening day this summer, and he was SO excited. Afterward we went to lunch had a great book chat where he informed me of all of the inconsistencies between the book and the movie. Isn’t it always like that?

So for now my readers have swapped places, but I don’t mind one bit.

-Shannon, StorySnoop

P.S. I was just notified that my Instagram-obsessed daughter has gone over her data-plan, so I am forecasting more reading in her future – at least until the next billing cycle. I’ll keep you posted :-)

Summer Reading – Old Faithful Books for 4th/5th Graders

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

School is out for many of our kids, already, and for the rest of us it is rapidly approaching. We want to keep our kids reading this summer, but sometimes it is hard to find a book that will keep their attention during the non-school months. Summertime is the perfect time to relax in the sun with a book – and sharpen those reading skills while they are at it!

In addition to our summer reading lists (for boys, teen girls, and tween girls), my child’s teacher asked me for a list of “old faithful” books for 4th and 5th graders, so I thought I’d share this list with you. These might not be the newest releases, but they are tried and true, and certain to be loved by the 9 and 10 year olds in your life.

Old Faithful Books for Tween Girls

My Life in Pink and Green (#1) by Lisa Greenwald, and
• My Summer of Pink and Green (#2) by Lisa Greenwald
Close to Famous by Joan Bauer
11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass
Eleven (The Winnie Years Book #1) by Lauren Myracle (Parents, check the scoop on the site)
The Candymakers by Wendy Mass *
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead *
Whatever After #1: Fairest of All by Sarah Mlynowski
Old Faithful Books for Tween Boys

Peter and the Starcatchers #1 by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko  *
Holes by Louis Sacchar *
• Any of the sports books by Tim Green and Mike Lupica
Island Book One: Shipwreck by Gordon Korman
Maximum Ride #1: The Angel Experiment by James Patterson (kids love this series, but read the Scoop on the site) *
* Books that would be enjoyed by both genders.
Click here for our 2013 Summer Reading lists for teen gals, teen guys, tween girls, and tween boys.
Happy reading!
- Shannon, StorySnoop

Old Stories With a New Twist: Today’s Thoroughly Modern Fairy Tales (and they’re not all just for girls!)

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

I have read a bunch of books for the StorySnoops site with the same kind of a premise – a refreshingly modern day take on a classic fairy tale.  Sounds girly and perhaps a little corny but no! These books feature a Cinderella who is more about empowering herself than she is about marrying her prince; or a brave outcast who faces the Snow Queen in order to save her best friend, Jack; or cousins Jack and Jill who, while on a quest, have many creepy and dangerous encounters in a book which is simultaneously hilarious and terrifying!

If your tween is interested in the new spin on an old classic, the “modern fairy tale”, here are some titles to try:

This list will get you started. We have a similar list for teens coming soon!

Happy Reading :-)

Shannon, StorySnoop

Suggested Reading for a Fifth Grade Boy

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

There are a lot of great boy books out there for middle graders. However, a parent recently commented to me that she is having a hard time finding good matches for her fifth grader, as he prefers realistic or historical fiction. There is a lot of fantasy and dystopian fiction out there, and although it’s very popular, it’s true that it’s not for everyone.  She mentioned that her son enjoyed the book Hatchet, likes historical fiction, and that as a family they have read The Hunger Games. With these clues, my mind got to working…

What is a boy such as this to read?  Since he liked Hatchet, he should definitely check out the companion book to called Brian’s Winter. And here are some additional suggestions:

As with any of the books that we recommend, please be sure to click on the cover and read the Scoop to make sure it’s the right fit for your child.  Let us know if you have a book match challenge. We’d be happy to make some suggestions for your reader.

Happy Reading!

-Shannon, StorySnoop

Tried and True, Judy Blume

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

Helping out in the school library during my son’s weekly visit is such an eye opener.  Not much as changed in the twelve years I have been volunteering in there. The boys load up on war plane textbooks, graphic novels, and spooky story books, and the girls still love that Warriors series. Some of the books have changed, of course. I love that Wonder and My Life in Pink and Green now have waiting lists!

There is a very (very!) reluctant girl reader in this class who just has it in her mind she will not (or cannot? ) read. For months I have scrambled around, pulling books off the shelf with a ridiculous cheerfulness: (How about this? Or this?).  She would bring the books back the following week, and I suspect she probably never even cracked them open.

Then one day I handed her Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by good ole’ Judy Blume. An oldie but goodie if there ever was one. But there was a BOY on the front cover and she gave me a doubtful looked. She may have even rolled her eyes. But she took it.

This girl was the first one into the library the following Tuesday and exclaiming (I think as much to her surprise as mine) how much she loved it. Victory! When I told her that it was actually the first in a series, she could not believe her luck. She grabbed the next two books in the series and looked seriously conflicted when she came to check her book out.  You see, you can only check one book out at a time, and here she was with a stack of Fudge books she did not want to part with. What if someone checked it out and lost it? What if we put it on hold for her but accidentally gave it away? This poor fretful girl was literally petting her Judy Blume books. A book match was made. A reader was born. And a rule was broken – we let her check out BOTH books :-)

-Happy Reading!

Shannon, StorySnoop

Super Scoop: Drama by Raina Telgemeier–What’s the big deal?

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

You gotta love those well-written graphic novels for middle schoolers. They are crowd-pleasers: attractive to those who don’t love to read, and gobbled up in one sitting by those who do.

Raina Telgemeier’s Smile, about growing up as an awkward adolescent with braces, was well-received by critics and readers alike. She now has a new book out called Drama, which also depicts the very real ups and downs of middle school. Like Smile, the writing is good, and it’s a darn good book.

However, I am disappointed in what I have been reading about it. Critics seem to like it (well, it IS a good book!), but others are not so open-minded. Bloggers and other reviewers have condemned this book because there is a gay character who is open about his orientation. No one in the fictional school has a problem with it. There are a few gay characters in the book’s theater production, but honestly – can you tell me a theater production that does not? Or for that matter, can you name a middle school that does not have gay students? This book is not about sex, it’s about young teens (gay and straight alike) figuring themselves out and accepting who they are. More importantly, it is about others accepting them (which is not a problem in this book as everyone is open and being gay is not a problem).

My daughter, also a seventh grade theater chick, read this book and really enjoyed it. We talked about the characters, gay, straight, bi – whatever. It was not shocking to her. She told me that it very accurately depicted her middle school life.  I applaud the middle school kids of today, really. They can read a book and say, “He’s gay, lots of kids are. So what?” Not so for many parents and other critics of this book. Why is that?

Let’s just stay focused on the positive. Finally we have a book that is perfect – PERFECT – for the young theater crowd. Those kids, male and female, who know all of the words to Les Miz, and say things like “Break A Leg!”, and “The Show Must Go On!”: here is a book just for you.

Happy Reading!

-Shannon, StorySnoop

Shannon’s 2013 Newbery Predictions–no bias here!

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

The ALA will be announcing their awards on January 28th, and we will soon learn who will win this year’s Newbery Award.

I have been hesitant to make predictions in the past becomes sometimes those winners come straight out of left field and I never could have guessed them! But where is the fun in that? There are some solid books from 2012 that most would agree deserve, if not the Newbery Medal, then perhaps a Newbery Honor award. These are just my opinions however, so don’t laugh at me if I completely miss the mark come January 28th. With that disclaimer, I bring you my darlings for the 2013 Newbery Award.

WONDER– I loved this book, and maybe I am not supposed to say this, but it was my personal favorite. It was released a while ago, though, so I am hoping no one has forgotten about it. I love it because I know it is a book that not only moved me (a great deal) as an adult, but every kid I have given this book has loved it too. I’ve even seen it go home in the backpacks of reluctant readers. Could have something to do with that awesome cover, but the kids love it, and that is because it is just one awesome story. The strong anti-bullying message is one that all kids everywhere can benefit from, and I could go on and on…. It seems to me that Newbery tends to go to a historical fiction book (which this is not), but I am hoping this has a chance.

THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN – Sweet, loveable, book that reminds me so much of a Charlotte’s Web. I also love this book for a classroom, and the story is just beautiful. Not sure if quite up to the Newbery, but a memorable story not to be missed.

LIAR AND SPY – Rebecca Stead’s last book, When You Reach Me, quite deservedly won the Newbery Award, so we know the lady can write. The writing in this book is great – hallmark Rebecca Stead. Very witty and smart with lots of twists and turns you can tell she plotted out ahead of time. The other great thing about Rebecca Stead is that she writes FOR kids, meaning she has the unique ability to write exactly what they want to read – very well. As much as I loved this book, I am not sure that it will win as it is sure to be compared to her last book, and it is not quite the masterpiece that When You Reach Me is, but I can hope, right?

SUMMER OF THE GYPSY MOTHS – Loved this book, loved the quirky characters, heartfelt moments and the fact that you had to suspend belief to get wrapped up in the story. I wonder about kids, though–not sure what they will think of this book. It might be one of those charming stories that we adults adore, but kids, not so much. I could be wrong, though…

STARRY RIVER OF THE SKY – This is the one I THINK just may win it. The companion book to the popular and acclaimed Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is just as lyrical and well told as its predecessor. Grace Lin is one of the truly excellent writers for children of our time. Her last work won a Newbery Honor,  and this one just may take home the big prize. Released late in the year, I think it knocked off a lot of its competition. It is just a flawless tale, and I think the award giving peeps will be smitten.

So those are my biased predictions. What are yours? Please share your them with us, and we can compare notes when the big announcement is made.

Looking forward to January 28th!

-Shannon, StorySnoop

A Junior Snoop’s Reading Pile

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

Sometimes, you want a book recommendation from someone besides an adult.  You want to hear it from an actual kid–one in the trenches who is reading all of this stuff, and can give you an honest thumbs up or thumbs down, or even a few comments so you can judge whether your own kid will like a book.  For this reason, I ventured into my daughter’s room to check out her reading pile and asked her to tell me a bit about each book.

Her reading pile looks like this (you should see the rest of her room!):

Note that the book on the bottom of the pile is one I recommended long ago but keeps getting set aside.  I just know that Freak the Mighty is one of those books that she will love once she finally tries it.  Actually, she has read all of the books piled on top of it. A male friend recommended The Kill Order to her and they both loved it, so we can put that one on the list of crowd pleasers for both teen boys and girls. It’s the prequel to The Maze Runner series, and my daughter liked it even better than the other books. Interesting.

The Outsiders is also peeking out of the pile. Yeah, I made her read my old copy when she was starving for a book.  She “really liked it” but didn’t “love it.” Ahem. I guess we don’t have to see eye to eye on everything.

Monument 14 is a new dystopian novel with a very interesting premise. Six kids are trapped in a superstore during a kind of end-of-the-world apocalypse. Sort of reads like Lord of the Flies in a Target – she says it is her favorite that she has read in months.

Where Things Comes Back is another one I put in the pile. I loved this book, and it won so many awards last year. She liked it, and I think appreciated it for the quality book that it is. She said she’d recommend to “girl good readers.”

Yesterday. Now we are talking. She loved this dystopian thriller by C.K. Kelly Martin and would recommend it boys and girls.

Finally, she just bought the Ann Aguirre’s new novel, Outpost, and in her excitement to read it, is rereading the first book in the series, Enclave.  This should occupy her for about a week, if I’m lucky. To all of the YA lovers out there, let me know in the comments section what books I should add to the top of the pile!

-Shannon, StorySnoop