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 February, 2012

Always be prepared…

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Some people tell me I’m lucky that my kids like to read so much. I agree, and believe me, I’m grateful. I think luck has a little bit to do with it, but the rest  – is strategy! And you can do it, too!  I have a very simple trick that worked for all of my kids, and here it is:

I always have a new book ready for them to read when they finish their current book.

Really – it’s that easy. You know how when you are on an airplane and you watch a movie that you otherwise may have never been interested in? You need to kill time, and you are a suggestible and captive audience. This is the same thing.

If I give my kids a pile of books to choose from, they might pick one and scoff at the others. But, when they finish a book, and need a new one NOW because it’s bedtime and (thank you teachers!) they need to read for twenty minutes and jot it down in their Reading Log, I’ve got ‘em. Yes, I take full advantage of this desperation. Very casually, I hand over a book or two and say, “Um, maybe try one of these?”

So, I get them to read some books I’ve been stockpiling for them, their teacher gets them to read every night, and best of all, they get to enjoy some really great books.

And the proof that this is working? When you go to turn out the light and they ask for ten more minutes – to read.

I love this example of how parents and teachers work together to make readers out of our children!

Do you have any tricks to get your child to read? We’d love to hear what worked for you?

-Shannon, StorySnoop

Read Alikes–Got an action-loving boy?

Monday, February 27th, 2012

We love the challenge of keeping our action-oriented tween boys stocked with good books.  If you’ve got one too, and he’s already enjoyed Ranger’s Apprentice, look no further.

If you liked:

Then be sure to look at:

Enjoy!

-The Snoops

Suggested Reading…

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

Have a teen girl looking for an edgy read? She may want to check out these titles!

- Be sure to check back on Monday for more Read Alikes!

Ah, books. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

Monday, February 20th, 2012

I have a long list of reasons to love books since they have played such a central role in my life: cherished time spent with my children, the trigger of a treasured memory, a wellspring of inspiration, comfort, and enlightenment.  I could go on and on.

Last weekend, I added another yet reason to my list.  Faced with a socially uncomfortable situation at a party, I clung to the safety of a familiar subject.  Can you guess?  Yes, books.  Books, like the weather, are a fairly safe topic when there’s an elephant in the room and you just do not want to go there.  They can even bridge the gap between friends who may have drifted for one reason or another.  I’m grateful that my current obsession with children’s books did not hinder me in the least.  At the first pregnant pause I blurted, “I just finished the perfect book for your son,” and then off we went.  The ice broken.  The social crisis averted.

Since I’m probably not the only one in need of the occasional social life preserver, here are a few books I have read that are sure to do the trick if you need to break the ice with…

…the parent of a tween girl:  Has your daughter read the  Twilight series?  I hear it all gets a little bit dicey when they get to Breaking Dawn.”  I think trying to read ahead of their age is a right of passage for tween girls!

…the parent of a tween boy:  What is up with the violent video games?  You know, if he likes a lot of action, he should read The Lost Hero.  Lots of battles.  Cool weapons.  But nobody gets hurt.  He may even learn a thing or two about mythology without even trying.

…the parent of a teen girl:  I know, where do you go from Twilight?  Even I’m a sucker for a good love triangle.  Maybe she’d like Tiger’s Curse.  Half romance, half adventure.  100% love triangle!

…the parent of a teen boy:  You’ve got to get him Jasper Jones.  It’s like S. E. Hinton meets Australia.

Have books ever helped you out of a sticky situation?  We’d love to know.

-Jen, StorySnoop

Book Club Update!

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

It’s time for another update on the Green Oompa Loompas! Those of you who follow our blog will know that this is the crazy name of the girls book club that I run for twelve year olds. Never mind the name – it may be changing soon anyway as these newly sophisticated girls cannot believe they picked such an immature name back when they were baby fourth graders…

Back to what they have been reading.  Since we last had a book chat with this group of girls, here is what they have been reading and discussing:

13 Gifts by Wendy Mass – Well, these girls adore Wendy Mass so it’s no surprise they give it two thumbs up. This is the third book in her “birthday series,”of which they are huge fans. They particularly enjoyed the elements of magic woven into this realistic fiction story, and how characters from her other books make appearances in this book.

The Frog Princess by E.D. Baker – The girls finished this book and liked it, but were lukewarm about it. I loved the book, personally, but some of the girls thought it was a little slow.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – Yes, my book club read this. They really wanted to, and all the parents gave their permission. I was worried because it is not only a book for a skilled and older reader, it is pretty darn violent. (But, this blog is not about my opinion today…)

They love love LOVED this book. A few of the girls found it hard to get into but once they got going, they really enjoyed it. The book discussion was passionate and lasted over two hours with girls interrupting each other like crazy. They all agree that Katniss is one awesome heroine. Most of them have plowed through the other books in the series and cannot wait for March, when the movie comes out.

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu – I wonder if any of you are tired of my singing the praises of this amazing book? Well, although I fell in love with this, I did kind of wonder if kids would like it. Surely, adults will appreciate all the great literary elements used in this read, but will children? Also, I had some lingering questions as the book does not tie up completely in the end. How would kids feel about this?

The answer? Two big thumbs up. Everyone enthusiastically liked it. I asked if them if they thought the beginning was slow because the action part of the book does not occur until halfway through the book. “Not at all,” they said. “Harry Potter is also like that.” Very well, then.

This is just the best book to discuss as there are so many metaphors, references to other works of literature, and symbolism. The girls got it. The look on their faces as they had their “aha” moments – “Jack getting a piece of glass in his eye … I think it’s actually an metaphor for growing up.” – priceless! Also, some of the girls were prompted to read Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Snow Queen” as “Breadcrumbs” is a modern day version of that story. Their one unanimous criticism of the book: “Please Ms. Ursu – write an epilogue!”

So, that wraps up what our book club has been reading. Have you read any of these books? What do you think? What has YOUR child’s book club been reading?

-Shannon, StorySnoop

The library! It’s here! It’s here! It’s here!

Monday, February 13th, 2012

If you are an out-of-town friend of StorySnoops, you may not have had February 11, 2012 on your calendar for months and months, but here in Los Gatos, we have been waiting for this day with baited breath. In this town sadly devoid of book stores (sigh–read about it here), we have all been marking the days until our NEW Los Gatos Library opened. And that day finally came this weekend.

It was a big deal, and I was so proud of the citizens of our town for supporting such a grand celebration of literature.  A half hour before opening, it seemed like half the town was out front waiting for the doors to open, listening to speeches by town leaders and music by the high school band. There were author signings, tours and other events happening all weekend. People were walking around town with the new book bags they got at the library.  It warmed my heart to see it all.

And today, my middle school son was begging me to let him ride his skateboard down, with his library card in his pocket, just to wander on his own and check something out. What? Yes! Of course! Take all the time you need! He and his friends have been talking about meeting there after school to do homework. Be still my heart.

It’s been awhile since there has been happy book news in our town, and if only a fraction of the excitement surrounding this library opening sticks around, it will be enough for me. Congratulations to all involved who have succeeded in building a beautiful and welcoming facility that joins literature and technology in an inviting setting–a place that people will want to gather and surround themselves with books. It gives me hope that young people will continue to treasure the written word, and have a place where they can experience the beauty of holding a paper book in their hand. What a worthwhile investment for our community.

-Eden, StorySnoop

The tried and the true…

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

When I hear teenage girls say, “I don’t like to read,” I always say, “Not true! You just haven’t read the right book yet.”

I have several books in my arsenal that are tried and true, never fail, go-to choices for teen girls. I don’t know a girl who read one of these and didn’t love it. That being said, one of them was put to the ultimate test recently.

In choosing a book for my friend’s very reluctant teen girl reader, I thought long and hard about what I chose for her. I took into consideration her personality, her attention span, her likes and dislikes, and finally made my decision – Gimme a Call by Sarah Mlynowski. Timing was very good – she was going to be on vacation with no urgent schoolwork to finish and some downtime. Poor kid had to be the captive audience of the ultimate book freak! Good sport that she is, she started reading, even though I am not sure she really wanted to. Now, here is where I get to pat myself on the back, she loved the book! Sigh… nothing makes me happier than a satisfied reader. She also dove into the book I bought for her sister – The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart – and enjoyed that one as well. Success!

Now I am not delusional enough to think that I have made a voracious reader of her, but I do know that she will probably trust me when I put a book in her hands in the future. Or, maybe she is so sweet that she will just humor me. Either way, I will be happy.

-Tiffany, StorySnoop

The tried and true list:

Teacher Tuesday–Magical Read-Alouds

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

Last month, we introduced a new feature on our blog, Teacher Tuesday. Look for it the first Tuesday of every month. We’ll be providing our unique form of children’s book reviews–written from a parent’s perspective–to help teachers select the perfect read-aloud for their classroom, or make book suggestions for those tricky reluctant readers, or stimulate discussions about moments in history. And if you teachers have any requests, please let us know.

For February, we’re featuring read-alouds that transport characters to a magical world filled with adventure.  These books are sure to capture the imagination of boys and girls alike (ages 8-12).

Lexile 710L

Lexile 870L

Lexile 720L

–Enjoy!

Tween girls “reading up!”

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

Oh, those tween girls who “read up”. Too skilled to read at their grade level, too “adolescent” to want to read about characters their own age….but still too young to read the content in most teen books. This is one of the very reasons StorySnoops was founded, as we all have had this dilemma with our daughters. We’ve talked about it a little in this post.

Currently, I’m in thick of it with my sixth-grader daughter.  Here are a few titles that were successes in our house. Kid tested, mother approved, you could say…..

The Running Dream – Fantasic book, awesome message, pretty wholesome, and totally inspiring. After reading this book, my daughter told me she was “never going to complain again” Winner! (Thanks, StorySnoop Tiffany, for the recommendation.)

Divergent – I suggest this one with caution, as there is some violence. However, if your daughter has already read The Hunger Games, it is nowhere near that violent.  I’m not a huge fan of Dystopian lit, but my daughter is. Thanks to StorySnoop Jen for recommending this book to her. It’s a little thick, but she read it in a week and even tried to sneak it to the dinner table once. I’m thankful that it is the first book in a new series. Next book due out in Spring 2012!

Because of Mr. Terupt – OK, this is technically a tween book, but I know of 13 year old girls who really liked it, so I am putting it on this list. It’s a great story that will satisfy tweens who swear they don’t like “tween” books. I had to check this out from the library three different times before my kid actually read it. When she finally gave it a chance and finished it, she came to my room, eyes full of tears (don’t worry, they were happy tears) and blurted, “That book gets one million out of ten stars.”  So, she recommends it. (And thanks to StorySnoop Eden, who turned us on to this little gem.)

Remember, these books were the right choice for my kid. Be sure and read the scoops to decide for yourself what is right for your family.

What about you? Whether you are a teacher, librarian, or parent, which books do you like to recommend to tween girls who are “reading up?”

-Shannon, StorySnoop