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 ‘Books for Younger Readers’ Category

Super Scoop–Capture the Flag by Kate Messner

Monday, November 5th, 2012

Attention teachers and librarians! Looking for great addition to your elementary school library? Well, I have a fun recommendation for you.

Capture the Flag by Kate Messner is a smartly-written and really fun mystery/action/adventure book. The premise of the book is that four seventh graders, who have never previously met, are snowed in together at an airport in Washington D.C. When news comes that the actual famous flag that inspired the song “The Star-Spangled Banner” has been stolen, the kids have a sneaking suspicion that the culprits are right there in the airport, snowed in with them. So begins a fun, action-packed, mystery that will keep those pages turning to find out just whodunit!

Capture The Flag is wholesome while still being exciting. The characters are both male and female, and this book will appeal equally to either gender. This crowd-pleaser would be a fun read-aloud, addition to a classroom library, or just a great book to check out for 3rd-7th graders, depending on his or her reading level.

Happy Reading!

–Shannon, StorySnoop

P.S. Here are two other great middle grade titles by Kate Messner that we loved.

Not just your mother’s author anymore!

Monday, October 8th, 2012

Back when we started reading for StorySnoops the biggest sacrifice (at least for this Snoop, who reads so much slower than her counterparts!) we had to make was to give up reading our beloved adult books.  And while we occasionally pick up something from a favorite adult author, the majority of those precious reading hours are spent with an entirely different group of folks. But imagine our delight when we see one of our old friends taking a dip in the Young Adult pool—so exciting!

Writing for a young audience is an entirely different ball game though. If it were a slam-dunk, everybody would be doing it, right? So clearly the ability to write for kids with an authentic voice that will speak to them without patronizing them is a talent. These teens are whip-smart and can smell a fake voice a mile away, so pretenders looking for low-hanging fruit in the YA market need not apply. Recognizing who is good at writing for kids versus writing for adults is a lot like watching good teachers and youth leaders in action—there are clearly people in this world who have the ability to connect instantly with kids, while there are others who wouldn’t have the faintest idea how to even begin a conversation with a teenager. Success in one market by no means guarantees success in the other (with the exception of James Patterson, apparently).

Even so, we Snoops have always been positively giddy when a favorite adult author tries their hand at writing for kids, and pick up those books immediately. And I gotta say, sometimes it works out, and sometimes, well…not so much. I’ve had the good fortune recently to pick up the new book for teens by one of my all-time fave adult authors, Elizabeth George, The Edge of Nowhere, and I LOVED it. Her characters are fabulous (as always) and authentic, the motivations seem real and I was able to dive right in to the story without spending a single minute questioning anything she wanted to tell me. The book worked for me on many levels, and I can imagine my teen diving in and enjoying it too.

On the “eh” side of the equation? I regrettably have to say John Grisham. The first book in his series for kids, Theodore Boone—Kid Lawyer, was interesting to me (I’m an adult, I understand and love a good courtroom procedural), but could I in good conscience recommend it to a kid? Sorry, but no, not yet. I’m sure there are some middle schoolers out there (somewhere) who know they want to be lawyers (maybe they watch Law & Order on TV?), but I just don’t think courtroom antics and trial loop-holes (Grisham’s bread and butter) are that relatable for kids. I’m pretty sure somebody clued him in to this fact though because the next two titles in the series take Theo outside the courtroom and focus much more on action and sleuthing (now we’re talking!). So to be fair, I’m pretty sure Mr. Grisham is learning as he goes, and I will keep reading, just to make sure.

Here is a batch of books for kids by authors you may know from the adult side of the library or bookstore. You tell me—who has made this transition successfully and who hasn’t? And as always, let us know what is missing from this list :-)

-Eden, StorySnoop

Best of Banned Books Week: Judy Blume talks censorship and more!

Monday, October 1st, 2012

In the spirit of Banned Books Week, StorySnoops is hosting a retrospective of some of our favorite “frequently-challenged” author interviews and book reviews. BBW is the American Library Association’s annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment. It highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States. Check out this ALA timeline, showing significant banned and challenged books over the past 30 years. These are some of our all-time favorites—can you imagine someone denying you access to these books?

Our guest today is beloved author Judy Blume.  More than 80 million copies of her books have been sold and her works have been translated into 31 languages.  This highly acclaimed writer is the recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards Award for Lifetime Achievement, the Library of Congress Living Legends Award, and the 2004 National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.  Judy is one of the most frequently banned writers in America, having found herself in the middle of an organized book banning campaign in the 1980s.  Since then she has championed intellectual freedom, working with the National Coalition Against Censorship to protect the freedom to read.

Judy asked that we use some of her previously released statements as answers to two of these questions.  However, we are snoopy Snoops and just had to throw a couple of extras in there for her!

What effect does a censorship climate have on a writer?

Chilling. It’s easy to become discouraged, to second-guess everything you write.  I’ve never forgiven myself for caving in to editorial pressure based on fear, for playing into the hands of the censors. I knew then it was all over for me unless I took a stand. So I began to speak out about my experiences. And once I did, I found that I wasn’t as alone as I’d thought.

You must have been surprised when people began to take issue with your themes about real-life adolescent experiences.

I wrote Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret right out of my own experiences and feelings when I was in sixth grade. Controversy wasn’t on my mind. I wanted only to write what I knew to be true. I wanted to write the best, the most honest books I could, the kinds of books I would have liked to read when I was younger. If someone had told me then I would become one of the most banned writers in America, I’d have laughed.

What’s your biggest fear about censorship with regard to young people today?

What I worry about most is the loss to young people.  Some people would like to rate books in schools and libraries the way they rate movies: G, PG, R, X, or even more explicitly. But according to whose standards would the books be rated? I don’t know about you but I don’t want anyone rating my books or the books my children or grandchildren choose to read. We can make our own decisions, thank you. Browsing at the library or in the books on our shelves at home, allowed me to find and read books I can still recall, books I might otherwise never have read.  I’m thankful my parents encouraged me to read.  Reading was a good thing in our family, not something my parents feared.

We have always wondered how you could possibly understand exactly what we all felt and experienced as young girls, both spoken and unspoken.  How do you do this?

I can’t explain it.  It’s just something I can do.  I know that’s not a satisfying answer — maybe it’s that I identify so closely with kids, am able to connect one-on-one with them.  Does it have to do with my ability to remember my own childhood so vividly?  I’m sure that’s part of it.  It’s just such a part of me I don’t question it.

Thanks for taking a few minutes with us, Judy!

Judy continues to write for young adults.  You can keep an eye on what she is up to on her website.

Join us again tomorrow for an interview with Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, author of the frequently-banned Alice books. Click here to see all of our interviews in the Best of Banned Books Week series.

-The Snoops

Top Ten Most Popular Books in the Library (part 3) for Elementary Schoolers

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

We’ve been sharing with you the Top 10 Most Popular Books in libraries across the country for teens and middle schoolers. It’s time to find out what the elementary school kids are digging right now.

From John Schumacher, K-5 Librarian in Naperville, Illinois:

Here is John’s list of what the kids in his elementary school students are checking out.

1. Lunch Lady and the Mutant Mathletes by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

2. Sidekicks by Dan Santat

3. Skeleton Creek Book #1 by Patrick Carman

4. The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger

5. Big Nate Strikes Again by Lincoln Peirce

6. The Name of This Book is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch

7. Lunch Lady and the Picture Day Peril by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

8. The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

9. Smile by Raina Telgemeier

10. Love That Dog by Sharon Creech

I love that the Lunch Lady series made this list, and in the number one spot no less! Thanks for sharing with us, John.  For more from John and his passion about finding great books for kids, visit his blog at

That wraps up our three-part post about what kids are checking out at the library. Were you surprised by any of the books on these lists? Librarians, how do these lists compare to what is being checked out in your libraries? We’d love to hear about it in our comments section!

The ultimate list for your animal lover!

Monday, September 10th, 2012

Boy do we love our animals at my house. It is such a rewarding part of growing up to have a special relationship with a pet–an experience I certainly had, and one that I hope my children will treasure as well.

If you have an animal-lover in your house, you might want to take a look at the books on this list, which features animals portrayed in three ways. First, there are the obligatory books with the animals as adventure characters (they talk, experience the action, are the heroes etc.), then there are the books where the adventures involve animals or are motivated by them (think: must rescue dog from bad situation, adventure ensues…), and then my personal favorites are the books where there is a special relationship between human and animal (these are a tad more serious–no talking critters here!). Bottom line, whatever kind of animal story your young reader prefers, we’ve got a book for that :-) And never fear, we know that animal-lovers can be among our most sensitive readers, so we always try to indicate in our Scoop if there is something that might bring tears, just in case you want to be ready with a box of tissues, or a shoulder to cry on.

Animal as Adventurers:

Adventures Involving Animals:

Special Animal Relationships with Humans:

So many books, so little space! These are just a few of the animal books we loved–if you’d like to see our full selection, check out this list.

Happy Reading!

-Eden, StorySnoop

11 books to remind kids that “different” can be a good thing

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

We’ve said it before and we will say it again: at StorySnoops, one of the things we love about books is that they teach empathy.  And one thing that every kid feels at one time or another is that he or she doesn’t fit in.

In our book selection below, the characters in these books REALLY don’t fit in. It is not always easy to be different, especially when you are a child. However, the super characters in these books come to learn that it is their own distinctive qualities that eventually make them special – and eventually maybe even cool with the “in” crowd.


–Shannon, StorySnoop

8 Cute Crush Stories for Tweens!

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

New school year, new crush?  If your tween is interested in the social scene more than her academics, we have just what you need.  These books will help them shake off the summer reading slow-down and give them some material for their nightly reading log.

Happy reading!

-The Snoops

12 Great Books for Teen and Tween Outside Reading

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

As we mentioned earlier this week, we’ve been working hard here at StorySnoops, reading everything we can get our hands on, so that we can bring you our favorite books that we think are must-haves for the classroom this year. Tuesday we published our lists of books that would be great for book reports for elementary, middle and high school students, and today we bring you some good choices for outside reading–maybe a bit lighter, or more enticing for a reluctant reader–in other words, something to make it easy to fill up that nightly reading log!

Great Outside Reading for Elementary Students:

See the complete list here.

Great outside reading for middle schoolers:

See the complete list here.

Great outside reading for teens:

See the complete list here.

There are so many great titles in the “Outside Reading” category, that it was next to impossible to pick just four books to show here, so be sure to check out the complete lists, and do let us know what we may have missed! As ever, happy reading!

–The Snoops

12 Must-Have Back-to-School Books for your Classroom!

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

The StorySnoops Back-to-School lists are here! We have been working hard (and reading fast!) to compile lists of reading essentials for the back to school season. Whether you need an outside reading book to keep your elementary-, middle- or high school student engaged, we’ve got ‘em. If you are in the market for a thought-provoking selection for a book report, look no further. For today, some of our favorites for book reports are sampled here, and more complete lists are included at the end. Join us on Thursday to hear what we like for outside reading books. We can’t wait to share–happy reading!

Great choices for elementary school book reports:

See the complete list here.

Consider these for a middle school book report:

See the complete list here.

Some books we like for high school book reports:

See the complete list here.

See you Thursday, when we list our favorite outside reading books for each age group.

–The Snoops

School is back in session! 12 Books that Celebrate Smart Kids

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

If school hasn’t started in your neck of the woods, it certainly will soon. As the kids get ready to go back and work their summer-ized brains for the first time in 10 weeks, here are some great books to remind your tween how cool the smart kids can be :-)

This list is just a taste to get you started. We have so many more books featuring smart kids here and here. Have fun checking out these books, and let us know what some of your favorite “brainiac” reads are!

–The Snoops