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 May, 2010

Quiet in the Car, Brought to You by J.K Rowling

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

I knew the Harry Potter series was awesome. My teenager and I have been reading these books since he was little. But for some reason, I never considered reading them to my younger kids. Duh.

Last summer, when I desperately needed something to entertain the kids in the car and stop them from fighting, I grabbed the first Harry Potter book on CD from the library. I was doubtful that they would pay attention to a book on CD but I had nothing to lose. They were driving me crazy.

When I first popped the CD in car’s player, I think my younger kids thought they were getting away with something. I had just taken their older brother to the new Harry Potter movie, and they were not allowed to see it.  They patiently – and silently – let me pop the first CD into the player.  And they listened.  And listened.  And listened. All three of them silently listened on the way to summer camps, lessons, and errands. They listened all the way to Gram’s house (3 hours away) and all the way to Camp (4 hours away). And their reward for “reading” the entire book?  We all watched the movie together…a nice family night.

An added bonus? It gave my teenager something to talk about with the little ones, something that has bridged an age gap.  Also, it gave my daughter the courage to tackle the whole series this year.

The only problem now is that they don’t want to get out of the car. They want to keep listening. And that is not such a bad problem after all, is it?

-Shannon, StorySnoop

Which Harry Potter book is your favorite?

Is it the hormones, or what?

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

Okay, so I’m happily reading along in a nice little tween book, and I’ve read quite a few of these now, so the general direction of the plot is usually not a surprise.  But before long, when the cute little troubled girl protagonist finally gets adopted by her former step dad, who, as it has been made abundantly clear, can offer her a better life than her unstable mother, I find myself sitting in my car with the book in my lap, sobbing—complete monster tears dripping down the face, nose running…sobbing!  At this point, I am really, really hoping that I don’t see anyone else I know in the school parking lot who might notice that I look like a puffy-eyed crazy woman!  And do I carry Kleenex in my car for just this sort of occasion?  Of course not.

Anyway, once I was able to collect myself, it occurred to me that I was completely losing myself over a book for a ten year old.  Yikes!  I am a forty-something gal, to whom these plot twists are rather predictable.  Books in the 9-12 year old category rarely have a truly sad ending (consider the audience—plenty of time for those books later), and yet, here I am crying my eyes out (and it’s really not the first time, actually).  Why???  In the interest of full disclosure, I do have a tendency to get a bit weepy sometimes in a nice coffee commercial, and I do love a good, trashy teen movie now and again, but I digress.

Maybe, to make myself feel better, I think that I’m crying because with my older, wiser view of the world, I can cry for the happy life that little girl will get a chance to have.  I can cry for the beauty of the step-parent who went above and beyond for a child who was no longer his.  I can cry for that poor mother, who even though she made a lot of mistakes, was still going to lose her daughter to another family.  None of these are thoughts the intended audience of ten year olds is likely to have, so maybe I have some adult insight that makes me cry.  Or maybe I’m just a sap.

-Eden, StorySnoop

Is it just me, or would you cry too? Waiting for Normal

Who knew? Young adult lit is worth a read!

Friday, May 21st, 2010

I have been a voracious reader all my life, and I have always loved getting my hands on a truly great book. When I tell people I’ve spent the last year of my life reading solely young adult fiction for this website, I’ve gotten groans, “Ugh!” and “How can you stand it?” replies. Well, let me tell you that I have been heartened and encouraged, and oftentimes completely blown away, by the truly great writing that is out there at our kids’ fingertips!

Now, not all of the books I have read are ones I would rave about—many would definitely not qualify for literary greatness. However, some of the books I now hold closest to my heart are young adult books. The award-winners in this age range are truly impressive and beautifully written. It has made my book-loving heart happy to read some extraordinary stories: ones that stand out among the rest because of beautiful prose, or because of heartbreaking and/or heartwarming characters, or because of empowering and inspirational messages, or maybe because they offer a powerful role model to someone who may really be in need of one.

There truly are some gems out there in the world of young adult fiction and I encourage you to pick them up, you will be happy that you did. I know I am!

–Tiffany, StorySnoop

Check out some of Tiffany’s recommendations:

Will Grayson, Will Grayson

North of Beautiful

The Sky is Everywhere

The Nature of Jade

The Twilight Zone

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

You know you’ve been reading a lot of children’s books when you start to identify your family members in some of the characters.  Take my fifteen-year-old niece, for example.  She is knee-deep in a love triangle with one of her best friends and a guy they both like.  While she has tried to convince me that she’s perfectly fine with this, I can’t help but notice a startling similarity between her situation and that of the characters in the Twilight saga.  My niece is Jacob, her friend is Edward, and the guy is Bella.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the story, Jacob is on the losing end of this deal.  Bella loves them both, but she chooses Edward.  Ouch.  That’s got to hurt.  Especially when you’re fifteen.

So what do you do when advice makes a teenager tune-out?  Maybe it’s not in the parenting books, but I tried to send my niece a message by way of fiction.  When I saw the scoop for The Lonely Hearts Club, I thought it was just what she needed – a story about a girl who starts a club after having her heart broken.  My niece loved it.  Did she get my message?  I’ll never know for sure, but I can’t help thinking that the positive messages she read about the importance of friendship and staying true to oneself couldn’t hurt.

-Jen, StorySnoop

Happy Days are here again?

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

A while back, my son came home with a book from The Fonz (aka, actor Henry Winkler, for those of you who may have missed sitcoms in the 70’s!).

While I was relieved that it was not yet another “I Spy” book from the school library, I was not so sure that the former Fonz could produce worthwhile fiction. Nothing against the Fonz, but an author? Really? What’s with these celebrities writing children’s books? And anyway, this book had a weird name, like “Holy Enchilada”, or something like that, and there were (at that time) probably thirteen books in the series. Groan. At least it was a chapter book.

But my son started tearing through these books and even wanted to use his precious allowance to buy them at the bookstore. ”What are these books about?” I asked him. “I dunno. Some cool kid.”  He’s a boy of few words.

I’m a nosy mom so I read one of them. I was, to say the least, surprised. It was wholesome book with a great cast of positive and culturally diverse characters. The family and friendships, teachers and neighbors in the book were supportive and positive role models. There is a wonderful relationship between the main character, Hank, and his grandpa, that you just don’t see in books for this age group. But the real beauty of this series is that it is about a boy who has dyslexia and ADD, and how he triumphs over his challenges. Hank turns every failure at school into a victory by thinking outside the box, with a little creative help from his supportive network of friends, family, and teachers.  How awesome for like-minded kids, or any kids, to see such a relatable character triumph over the very struggles they share.

I found it interesting that my son gravitated toward this book. He has some similar learning issues. It must have been nice for him to see a character like himself in that book, portrayed in a positive light. I’m sure Hank is very inspiring to kids who share his difficulties, and now I’m glad the Fonz wrote seventeen of those books!

So, it just goes to show, you really can’t judge a book by its cover. Even when it is written by a leather jacket-wearing, motorcycle-driving icon from the 70′s.

–Shannon, StorySnoop

Want to check out some the Fonz’s work for yourself?  Here’s Hank’s first adventure, Niagara Falls–or Does It?

StorySnoops hits the ground reading!

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

Wow! What a difference a year makes!  What started as a tiny speck of an idea on a rainy night in a bookstore is now a full-blown reality.  We have blood, sweat and tears, some sleepless nights, about a million emails, and pages and pages of books under our belts, and we even still like each other! This experience has been educational, mind opening, and an absolute labor of love. We are so proud of what we have accomplished and are ridiculously excited to share it with you. Someday we hope to read adult fiction again, but for now we are having a blast.  Check back with us soon–we’ve got a few thoughts to share about the journey.

Happy reading!

–The Snoops