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 July, 2010

Next up for Super Scoop Friday–The Dreamer

Friday, July 30th, 2010

Well, this book is destined for greatness–I smell major awards and accolades! The Dreamer was recommended to me at our local bookstore and I was absolutely transfixed by the beauty in this very simple story. Though based on the early life and writings of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, this is a work of fiction, and a beautiful one at that. This book reminded me of one of my all time favorites, The Book Thief.

Now The Dreamer is far less complex than The Book Thief, but both works place much significance on words and their power. Words literally come to life for Neftali, the main character in The Dreamer. “The words he had written wiggled off the page and escaped from the drawer. The letters stacked themselves, one on top of the other. Their towers reached higher and higher until they stood majestic and tall, surrounding Neftali in a city of promise.”

When Neftali’s writing notebooks are burned by his father, he is devastated. “His thoughts and cares and affections grew singed and curled. The remnants of his soul floated into the sky like gray snowflakes.”

There were so many moments as I was reading this book that I wanted to jot down a little gem I had just read, things I wanted to remember and re-read. Little thought provoking snippets such as: “Which is sharper? The hatchet that cuts down dreams? Or the scythe that clears a path for another?” Or: “Where is the heaven of lost stories?”

Readers of all ages who are passionate about poetry, about freedom of the press and freedom of speech, about those who speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, about those who will not be silenced and those passionate about words themselves will love The Dreamer.  It is a bookshelf must-have, and one to be read again and again.

-Tiffany, StorySnoop

Reluctant Reader Denial

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

When you really love to read and your kid doesn’t, it’s a bit of a shocker.  Could he have been swapped at birth?  No.  I was there when he first made his appearance and this is the same guy.  A more likely explanation – he is who he is.

I’ve tried everything, and some things I’m not proud of.  Shopping sprees at the bookstore, summer reading programs, candy, and even cold hard cash.  He reads.  He just doesn’t love it.

Unable to accept this, I searched and searched for THE book.  The one that would act like a key and unlock this reluctant reader, hooking him once and for all.  And then one day, he found it himself.

It was an unlikely choice for a fifth grade boy – a Judy Blume book.  In Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, he found a character he could relate to in Peter Hatcher.  But more importantly, he finally found the confidence to call himself a reader.  And with that confidence came the feeling that there’s no book he can’t tackle.  Now there is a stack of previously intimidating books on his night table.  It warms my heart.  Next up, Al Capone Does My Shirts.

What book unlocked your reluctant reader?

-Jen, StorySnoop

Super Scoop Friday and a Giveaway

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

I’m so excited about our new Super Scoop Fridays! Every Friday here at StorySnoops, we’ll be dishing about a book we really like – and want to share with you!

My choice for this Friday’s featured book is Melonhead, by Katy Kelly.

This book is the first in a series about a boy called Melonhead and his adventures in Washington D.C.. Melonhead, a budding inventor with a habit of getting into trouble, enters a science contest that challenges students to recycle an older invention into a new one.

Why do I love this book? What’s not to love? It’s about a boy, but girls would like it, too. Melonhead is surrounded by a supportive and positive community of friends, family, neighbors, and teachers. And hey – he and his friends are trying to win a science contest – how great is that?

He’s not so perfect that our boys won’t relate to him. He often acts without thinking, and makes a couple of bad choices. Sound familiar? The message here is to think before you act because in this book,  there are consequences for bad choices. Mistakes are OK, as long as you learn from them. These kids do learn from their mistakes, and their team work and perseverance is ultimately rewarded.

I do love that this book that sneaks in some education with a spoonful of sugar. Set in our nation’s capitol, kids will read a bit about Washington DC and its historical landmarks. As the boys work on their science project, the author finds a palatable way to sneak in some information about past inventors and inventions.

All in all, Melonhead is  entertaining, wholesome, and educational. It has great messages and a good role model.  A winning combination!

The second book in the series, Melonhead and the Big Stink, was just released a few days ago, and is equally fabulous.

Melonhead is for ages 8 and up, but would be fun to read aloud with a younger child. For more information on this book, read the full Scoop here.

And there’s more! To kick off our first Super Scoop Friday, I am giving away a copy of the first Melonhead book by Katy Kelly. Just leave a comment on this post below with the name of the book that first got your child reading. In one week, we will randomly select a winner who will receive a copy of this fantastic book. Good luck!

-Shannon, StorySnoop

The Healing Power of Books

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

There is nothing I love more than getting the right book into the right hands at the right time. A few weeks back, one of my daughter’s friends was experiencing boy trouble, heartbreak, and general teenage angst. As luck would have it, I had just finished reading a young adult book that I thought would fit the situation perfectly. An excellent story about girl power, the importance of friendship and not compromising yourself or your relationships for a boy, The Lonely Hearts Club seemed like just what the doctor ordered. She immediately took the book home, devoured it, loved it and felt better for having read it.

Haven’t we all had either just the right talk with a friend, seen just the right movie, or read just the right book at a time when we really needed it? I love having the right book for the right occasion, whether that be when someone has had a bad breakup, is having friendship trouble, feels like they are the only one with a particular issue, or is having family issues. We can feel so empowered, heartened or comforted by a character or story that fits the given situation.

Now I am not saying that a book can erase bad feelings, or make something painful go away, but sometimes when you just need to know you are not the only one to feel a certain way, or you need inspiration from a positive and powerful character, escaping into just the right book can make all the difference.

Friendship trouble, divorce, heartbreak, low self-esteem, grief, shyness??? Browse around on StorySnoops to find something just right for your particular need. We’ve got something for everyone!

-Tiffany, StorySnoop

Going the Extra Mile

Sunday, July 11th, 2010

It’s no secret that is a brand new site in the world of children’s literature.  We have spent the last fifteen months or so very happily reading the books and building the site—both tasks that we all either love to do, or at the very least, have some experience with in our pre-kids, pre-Snoops lives.  Once the site launched however, we turned the corner into an entirely new area for all of us: outreach.  Ack!  Challenging!  We are not sales professionals.  We are readers—behind-the-scenes people, you know?  We all have the things we’re good at and we also have the things we may not be so good at, but are willing to do, “for the sake of the site”.  And we’ve all had a moment in recent weeks where we crossed a cringe-worthy social line of some sort, where we have contacted that former childhood neighbor who now works at a big magazine, or written to the hometown newspaper with a story about “Local Graduate Launches Website”.  Okay, not our proudest moments necessarily, but this entire project so far has been about new experiences and pushing our boundaries a bit, and so far we’ve been willing to do what it takes to get the word out.  So far so good—it’s all been from behind the comfy curtain of email or the phone.  But…

Jen was recently contacted by the producer of a local cable access TV show called Moms Are Talking! They wanted to do a piece on StorySnoops, since we are a local site, developed by moms.  TV?  Wow!  That’s big news!  That’s exciting, gulp-worthy kind of stuff!  But since they have three co-hosts and only one couch, they only need one Snoop instead of four—what to do?  Jen drew the lucky straw—she is the first one up to take the next step toward being a public face for our project, and not just a behind-the-scenes kind of gal.  And what better way to take this exciting plunge, than in the capable hands of other moms?  Moms Are Talking! is an inspirational show created by moms, for moms and about moms.  It is creator Cheryl Wenzel’s way of giving a gift back to the mom community that has always been supportive of her on her journey through the uncharted waters of motherhood.  Check out the article on the show that is currently in Bay Area Parent. So, we’ll remind you as the air date (August 11) draws closer, but in the meantime, we are excited to have yet another new experience in this journey-that-is-StorySnoops and leap into the realm of TV—go Jen!

-Eden, StorySnoop

The Green Oompa Loompas

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

I love my book club.

Oh, I’m not talking about my adult book club (but I’ll be writing about those fine ladies soon). I’m talking about my ten year old daughter’s book  club, The Green Oompa Loompas (GOL). I host this self-named posse of seven pre-teens once a month in my home for some food, fun, and book chat.

Really, I should just be a chaperone who helps facilitate discussion. It shouldn’t be so enjoyable that I now like to think of myself as the GOL’s eighth member.

I am completely impressed with how much book discussion I can get out of these girls. (After all, in my grown-up book club we tend to get sidetracked pretty easily!). But these girls come in, dish up, and start excitedly talking about the book. They never interrupt, and I find the combination of them raising their hands and then talking with their mouths full completely charming.  Their comments are very insightful, and they pick up on even the subtlest of themes, relating a character’s problem to some problem of their own. For example, after reading Thumbelina, the girls decided that their terrible mothers – who nixed their pleas for cell phones and pierced ears – probably did so out of love and with good reason.

I look forward to our book clubs, I’ll admit it. There are worse ways to spend a Friday night. It’s purely selfish, really. I relish getting my hands on these still-impressionable brains and shaping them into little literary minds that will know a thing or two about foreshadowing and metaphors.  I love it.  And, at least for now, I think they love it, too.

-Shannon, StorySnoop

P.S. Did I say that they choose the most fabulous books? Here is what the GOL’s have been reading recently: