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, 2012

Teacher Tuesday–Middle grade historical fiction for your classroom

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

I have read some 5-star books recently that seem to fall into a category I can’t put my finger on exactly. They are historical fiction, the writing is excellent, and they all teach of a grim time in our history that many aren’t aware of. Genocide, war, and communism may seem like topics a young reader may want to shy away from. However, the reader would be missing out on some really excellent literature.

Written for middle graders and teens (although sure to be beloved by adults, as well) these books are the new wave in historical fiction gems. While some of these books include some really sad parts, teachers of older grades may want to share these with their students. Their messages are ultimately of hope and strength of the human spirit. Not only are these amazing reads, but highly educational as well. The books I’ve included below are filled with important teaching moments and are rich with discussion material.


Enjoy!

-Shannon, StorySnoop

16 Great Books for High School Boys!

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

When it comes to special requests that we get here at StorySnoops, “books for boys” is without a doubt at the top of the list. The most common request is for reluctant younger readers, but coming in a close second is that infinitely hard-to-pin-down creature–the high school boy. Today, we’re featuring the Snoops’ favorite reads for high school boys who have a preference for realistic fiction. If you have a high schooler who’d rather pick up Sci Fi, Mystery or Dystopian fiction, by all means, let us know. We love nothing better than giving out our collective opinion on good books!

Check these out, and we promise you’ll find a great read for your teen.

Enjoy!

-Eden, StorySnoop

Summer + Audio Books = Award-Winner Love!

Monday, July 16th, 2012

Summer is great, but it hasn’t seemed to slow my family down at all. We seem to be in the car more than ever, driving to camps and classes, and on long road trips to grandma’s house. After watching (OK, I was listening) to the same DVD in the car again and again, I decided to take charge.

We’ve talked before about taking advantage of your captive kid audience. Buckled in the car, they are bored and at your mercy.  Insert audio book CD, and it is amazing how they will listen to books they would have balked at reading.

I find this is great for those award-winning books that perhaps look a little boring to my kids from the cover. These books have a way of coming to life in the car. Often times my kids will even check out the actual book after listening to it in the car, especially if it is the first of a series.

If you are over hearing your kids fighting in the car, or bored of listening to the same DVD playing, try this tactic. Check out the StorySnoops site for books that appeal to you (OK, and your kids). Take that list to the library. It is amazing how many books are on audiotape nowadays. Here are some that we’ve particularly enjoyed in my car so far this summer…

The Graveyard Book – A total winner. The author, Neil Gaiman, narrates the book himself in his most delightful and sometimes spooky British voice. All the kids were riveted. Selfishly, I wished this one had been longer!

Island, Part 1, Shipwrecked – This is the first in a trilogy by Gordon Kormon. My son especially liked this action packed story. After we listened to this first book in the series, he went on to read the other two by himself.

Holes – My whole family, despite their wide age range, loves to listen to this in the car. It’s a family favorite, and listening to the book in the car gave each of them the courage to tackle the book immediately.

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place Book I: The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood– We gave this book a good hour, but my kids kept asking, “What? What is happening? She is just saying a lot of words that make no sense and that I don’t understand”.  I’d like to say that it was just the British vocabulary, but they loved Harry Potter and The Graveyard Book. Just not a connection here.

Lawn Boy by Gary Paulson. This was a funny read that my older kids enjoyed. My youngest asked for some clarification from time to time, but mostly kept quiet and listened. My older kids got the jokes and laughed.

Stormbreaker: Alex Rider #1 by Anthony Horowitz — Although this is a young adult book, it was my nine-year-old son that loved this. A British narrator, spy gadgets, and lots of action kept him quiet on this trip. He had some questions on some of the vocabulary, and it was a little long, but overall, it was a hit. I think that the next book in the series might be too hard for him to read so we are listening to it in the car. (Alex Rider #2: Point Blank – so far so good!)

How about you? What books have your kids enjoyed reading in the car? Please share, I could use some more suggestions!

–Shannon, StorySnoop

There’s Not Just One Way to Come of Age

Monday, July 9th, 2012

Some books just need to be written.  I’m not sure how many coming of age books feature a lesbian protagonist, but any adolescent who is questioning their identity, sexual or otherwise, needs to get their hands on The Miseducation of Cameron Post.  I first became aware of this book when I heard the author, Emily M. Danforth, speaking on NPR about her own early model for lesbianism, the main character in Rita Mae Brown’s Rubyfruit Jungle.  Ms. Danforth’s insights had me rushing to the bookstore.

After twelve-year-old Cameron Post’s parents die in a car crash, she is completely convinced that she caused the accident, even though she was hundreds of miles away. Their deaths can only be punishment for Cam’s behavior, because on the day of the crash, she was busy kissing her best friend Irene. Knowing she cannot possibly be Irene’s friend any longer, Cam becomes withdrawn, numbing herself with an endless marathon of movies she watches while hiding out in her room; hiding from her ultra-religious aunt Ruth, who has moved in with Cam and her very conventional grandmother. If there’s one thing Cam knows, it’s that she has to do whatever it takes to bury her feelings about other girls, especially since the church she attends with Aunt Ruth makes it crystal clear that homosexuality will not be tolerated.

Denial works for a while but becomes increasingly difficult in high school, when Cam becomes friends with a girl from church–the ultra-popular Coley Taylor. Cam cannot help but fall in love this beautiful cowgirl who is virtually inseparable from her boyfriend. As Cam and Coley’s friendship grows, it unexpectedly evolves into something more. That is until Aunt Ruth, horrified by Cameron’s sinful ways, sends her to a special Christian school to be “cured” of her deviant impulses. In a place that is intended to strip its students of their very nature and identity, Cam finally realizes the importance of being true to herself, no matter who she finally discovers that is.

While Cameron’s story is obviously unique, she provides an excellent guide for readers who identify with her feelings and struggles, especially those who are surrounded by people who are intolerant of alternative lifestyles.  As a parent of two teenagers, I can’t help but feel for this character that is truly adrift.  Being a teen is hard enough–facing constant scrutiny and judgment.  But Cam is also bombarded with messages from society and those she loves that there is something fundamentally wrong with who she is as a person.

After Cam confesses her feelings to Coley, they begin to experiment sexually and eventually, the two mutually and consensually consummate their relationship. But Coley has a crisis of conscience and exposes the truth about Cam, claiming to be the victim of her “perversion.” Cam is ostracized by her beloved grandmother, who agrees with her aunt that the best course of action is to send Cam to a Christian school founded to save teens’ souls from a lifetime of sexual deviance.

The author quite effectively uses this setting to point out the absurdity of the belief that homosexuality is an unnatural choice; one that can and must be “fixed.” In spite of the staff’s best efforts to instill these beliefs, Cam finally realizes that what they are trying change is not in fact changeable. and becomes determined to fight for herself.

Hopefully, The Miseducation of Cameron Post will find it’s way into the right hands–the hands of any teen who feels that there is something wrong with them based solely on the misguided belief system of others.

-Jen, StorySnoop

What is on your high schooler’s assigned summer reading list?

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

My oldest is going to be in high school this fall, and as we are learning, one of the rites of passage into the upper grades is the “required summer reading” list for English class. We were both very excited last week when we looked up the list and found some excellent (albeit not particularly current) books. I know my daughter will enjoy these books once she gets into them, but unfortunately, there is nothing quite like the word “required” to put a damper on any enthusiasm she might have for jumping in with both feet.

Every high school’s required reading list is different of course, but the one thing they all have in common is meaty books, with great potential for discussion.  We’ve put together a list of the books we’ve found on reading lists around our area. Your child will get to their own list soon enough, but if you are interested in revisiting some great literature that won’t require you to write a paper at the end, check some of these out :-)

What other great books have you found on the high school summer reading lists?

Enjoy!

-Eden, StorySnoop