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 September, 2012

Best of Banned Books Week: Forever, by Judy Blume

Sunday, September 30th, 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?

I don’t know about you, but when I was in middle school, I thought I was getting away with murder when I read Forever, by Judy Blume.  Did my mother even know what this book was about?  There, in black and white, was a description of the forbidden act that everyone was talking about.  The teens in this book were doing it and I got read about it in minute detail.  It was romantic.  It was steamy.  It was forbidden.  Or so I thought.

Now that I have re-read the book as a parent, I see the story from a whole new perspective.  First of all, Judy Blume is an absolute genius.  We all thought this was the sex book.  Nope.  It’s really the wait-for-the-right-boy-and-use-birth-control book.  That is the genius part.  The story is crafted in such a way that girls want to read positive messages that they may not want to hear from their parents.  So for the price of exposing your daughter to some pretty explicit love scenes (and wouldn’t you rather she know what she’s getting herself into anyway?), you get wonderful messages about waiting for the right person, and the importance of talking to your family, and acting responsibly.

Yes, it’s still pretty steamy.  Yes, the boy names his male equipment “Ralph.”  But the themes in this classic are still relevant today, even thirty-seven years after it was written.

-Jen, StorySnoop

You can find the rest of our Best of Banned Books Week series here, with entries being added all week. Come back tomorrow for the StorySnoops interview with Forever author Judy Blume–it’s not to be missed!

Ode to Teachers

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

I recently finished reading The Princesses of Iowa, by M. Molly Backes, which features a teen girl who embarks upon a much-needed journey of self-discovery inspired by a wonderful creative writing teacher. And in real life, I just had the pleasure of meeting my daughter’s high school English teacher, a living, breathing example of a teacher whose enthusiasm and encouragement is infectious to his students (and their parents!).  While it may be a bit early in the school year for teacher appreciation week, I’m feeling inspired to share some of our favorite books that feature amazing teachers.  Thanks to all of you, who are in the trenches making a difference every day for our children.

Enjoy!

Jen – StorySnoop

16 Books Celebrating Smart Girls

Monday, September 24th, 2012

As I sit and watch my teenaged daughter working hard at doing her homework every night, it occurs to me that she is a smart girl. I’m proud of her, as I’m sure you are of the smart girls you have in your house, or elsewhere in your life. The way the social culture works these days, it’s unfortunately not the first quality that most girls will say they want to have though. One not-so-subtle way that I know of to show my daughter how much I value this quality (because God forbid, if I just come right out and say it, I’m SO uncool) is to suggest books to her that feature smart girls. I love a main character who wins by using her brain. I hope you do too!

Enjoy!

-Eden, StorySnoop

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  mrschureads.blogspot.com.

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!

Top Ten Most Popular Books in the Library (part 2) for Middle Schoolers

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

We ran Top Ten Most Popular Books in the Library last Thursday, telling you about the most popularly checked out books at teen librarian Jennifer Laredo’s library. Now that you know about the teens, let’s move on to the middle school kids :-) Without further ado, here are the Top Ten Most Popular Books in the Library for Middle Schoolers (Grades 6-8).

From Tamara Cox, Librarian for Palmetto Middle School, South Carolina:

Here is Tamara’s list of what the kids in her middle school like to read. I have kept her comments, as I thought they might be of interest to all.

1. The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins. I can’t buy enough to satisfy their requests.

2. The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney 4 copies of the series isn’t enough

3. Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer. The 6th graders are still excited to start the series because they finally have access to it.

4. Divergent series by Veronica Roth

5. I Am Number Four series by Pittacus Lore. Huge hit with my boys (and girls).

6. Shiver series by Maggie Stiefvater

7. Guinness World Record books

8. Matched series by Ally Condie

9. Tsubasa manga series

10. Fairy Tale series by Jackson Pearce (Sisters Red, Sweetly, Fathomless coming soon)

*Tamara also included a few titles that have the most holds this year. She feels that they would have made the list if more copies were available:

The Kill Order by James Dashner, Small Medium at Large by Joanne Levy, One For the Murphy’s by Lynda Mullaly Hunt, and Summer of the Wolves by Polly Carlson-Voiles.

Thanks for sharing with us, Tamara! For more from Tamara and her experiences as a wannabe edtech geek and middle school librarian, visit her blog.

From Tiffany Whitehead, Librarian for Central Middle School, Baton Rouge, Louisiana:

Here is what’s flying off the shelves in Tiffany’s library:

1. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

2. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

3. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw by Jeff Kinney

4. Deep and Dark and Dangerous by Mary Downing Hahn

5. Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous Life by Rachel Russell

6. Found by Margaret Peterson Haddix

7. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

8. Secrets of My Hollywood Life by Jen Calonita

9. The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

10. Cracker by Cynthia Kadohata

Thanks Tiffany! For more on Tiffany and her middle school musings on books and technology (she is quite the tech-savvy librarian) visit her blog.

The Hunger Games remains a huge hit with the middle-school crowd, but it is nice to see a mix of some new books too. Hopefully, it gives our readers some new interesting titles to check out at their local library!

Come back Thursday to see what the elementary school kids are loving in libraries across the country!

-Shannon, StorySnoop

Top Ten Most Popular Books in the Library (part 1) for Teens

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

When we ran our blog about the Top Ten Most Popular Books in the Library for Middle School and Teens a few years back, it was one of our most popular blogs of all time. We’ve recently checked back in with some of our favorite children’s and teen’s librarians to see what it is flying off the bookshelves across America. Today, let’s start with the the Top Ten Most Popular Books in the Library for Teens, shall we?

Jennifer Laredo, Young Adult Librarian

To see what the teens are reading these days, we love checking in with our own beloved local teen librarian, Jennifer Laredo. Jennifer works in the newly remodeled big and beautiful Los Gatos Public Library, a place we Snoops frequent quite a bit. Here is what Jennifer says are the top teen books from the last six months:

1.       The Hunger Games –  Suzanne Collins

2.       Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins

3.       Mockingjay – Suzane Collins

4.       Matched – Ally Condie

5.       Divergent – Veronica Roth

6.       The Maze Runner – James Dashner

7.       The Fault in Our Stars – John Green

8.       Crossed – Ally Condie

9.       The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky

10.     I Am Number Four – Pittacus Lore

Jennifer and I are delighted to see The Fault in our Stars on this list. In our opinion, it was the best book from 2012. I also am thrilled to see The Perks of Being a Wallflower on there, too. I wonder if the movie trailers are getting people interested in reading it? Whatever the reason, I am very happy that this book is getting some of the attention it has long deserved.

Tune in next Tuesday when we bring the Top Ten lists of two middle school librarians.

-Shannon, StorySnoop

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

Banned Books Week 2012 is Around the Corner!

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

This marks the 30th Anniversary of the American Library Association’s annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment.  Banned Books Week 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. To commemorate the occasion, the ALA has created a timeline of significant banned and challenged books for each of the past 30 years.  It turns out that many of the books featured on the timeline are among our favorites. Click on the book covers and find out what we have to say about these books that would have been sorely missed had we not had the opportunity to read them.

Bridge to Terabithia

1985

Forever

1987

The Chocolate War

1988

Go Ask Alice

1993

All But Alice

1997

Fallen Angels

1999

Harry Potter (Series)

2001

The Giver

2003

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

2009

ttyl

2010

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian

2011

Banned Books Week

10/5/12 UPDATE: Here are the Best of Banned Books Week interviews all in one place, in case you’ve missed any!

-The Snoops

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.

Enjoy!

–Shannon, StorySnoop