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 October, 2012

Giants Win the Series!!! Celebrate with great baseball reads!

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

I think I can speak for all of the StorySnoops when I say that we are very fired up that our local heroes, the San Francisco Giants, have won the World Series! Woo hoo! The Bay Area is celebrating tonight!  And because we are book people, we are hoping that maybe, just maybe, a kid you know will be inspired to pick up a baseball-themed book after watching the series. The books listed below cover all of the bases (sorry, couldn’t resist) and run the gamut from detailed baseball-game-playing books to books featuring the mega-fan, or maybe just a nice subplot involving baseball. Regardless, we enjoyed these books and hope they hit a home run (oh jeez, sorry!) with the young sports fan in your life :-)

Enjoy!

-Eden, StorySnoop

October is National Bullying Prevention Month

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

Most likely, you’re already aware that October is National Bullying Prevention Month.  This is an important annual event that helps raise awareness of bullying prevention across the country.  The event was created by PACER in 2006 to encourage people to take an active role in the bullying prevention movement.

Simlilarly, on October 19th, millions of people wore purple for Spirit Day to speak out against bullying and show support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youths. Spirit Day was started in 2010 to promote tolerance after LGBT youths took their own lives.

Those who are targets of bullying and intolerant behavior can truly suffer, and sometimes it can be difficult for a child or teen to vocalize their experiences and feelings. We have compiled a list of books in the hope that the right book in the right hands may spark a conversation or help a reader feel like they are not alone. The first group of books have strong anti-bullying messages and the second group feature LGBT characters and messages about acceptance. Click on the book covers to get the full scoop. And let us know if we should add any other books to these important lists. We’d love to hear from you!

Anti-bullying Books

LGBT Books:

The Miseducation of Cameron Post

Ghostly spirits for teens!

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

‘Tis the season for all things spooky! If you or your teen wants to celebrate October with a great read that has a little something to do with the supernatural, look no further. We have a set of books today that aren’t necessarily Halloween-themed, but they do have everything to do with ghosts and spirits and the paranormal. And there may even be a bit of romance thrown in for good measure. These may be just what you need to curl up with on a chilly fall evening. Just so long as you aren’t afraid of things that go bump in the night!

Enjoy!

-Eden, StorySnoop

From one teen to another…

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

As it is Teen Read Week this week, I consulted my own seventeen-year old and asked her to compile a list of books that she would recommend to other teens. Here it is, a list of books from one teen to another – and by the way, she recommends all of these very highly! Happy reading!

- Tiffany, StorySnoop

Teen Read Week — 2012 Top Ten Winners

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

Teen Read Week is the national literacy initiative of the  Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). It’s aimed at teens, their parents, librarians, educators, booksellers and other concerned adults. We at StorySnoops are excited by this year’s group of top ten winners because they are among some of our favorite books for teens. Check out the list and click on the link to get the scoop!

Divergent, by Veronica Roth

The Fault in our Stars, by John Green

Legend, by Marie Lu

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs

What Happened to Goodbye, by Sarah Dessen

Across the Universe, by Beth Ravis

Cinder, by Marissa Meyer

The Scorpio Races, Maggie Stiefvater

Where She Went, by Gail Forman

Abandon, Meg Cabot

Happy reading!

-The Snoops

Read For The Fun Of It! Eden’s Guilty Pleasures…

Monday, October 15th, 2012

It’s that time again–Teen Read Week is happening now! Teen Read Week is a national literacy initiative of the  Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), a division of the American Library Association. It’s aimed at teens, their parents, librarians, educators, booksellers and other concerned adults (pretty sure that is where the Snoops fit in :-) )

The theme this year is “Read For The Fun Of It”, with the sub-theme “It Came From the Library”, which dares teens to read simply for the fun of it. The event offers librarians and educators a chance to encourage teens to read for pleasure and to visit their libraries for free reading materials. Just the kind of good, clean fun we are trying to promote here at StorySnoops!

When I think of reading “just for the fun of it”, the first thing that comes to mind is a true guilty pleasure kind of book. Not too heavy, nothing a teacher would probably ever ask me to analyze or write a report on–just enough naughty behavior going on to heighten the escapism I’m looking for. Something I would for sure pull out on vacation, or most likely the kind of book I’d remove from the coffee table when my really intellectual friend comes over…these will appeal, regardless of who is in need of reading for fun, you or your teen!

Enjoy!

-Eden, StorySnoop

The Perks of Sharing Amazing Books with Your Children

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

“Mom, this book is totally inappropriate,” said my daughter with a wicked grin as I went to kiss her goodnight. “I can’t believe you gave this to me. You’re a StorySnoop and everything.” The book she is referring to: The Perks of Being A Wallflower.

Yes, I am aware of all the high school naughtiness that goes down in this book. It’s a banned book, in fact, but then again, so is Harry Potter. It’s my personal feeling that the story and the themes in this book are very valuable, and ones I want my daughter to experience. I mean, yeah, I cringed a little handing it over, but the cringing was more a parenting moment, you know? It was a reminder that she was not a little girl anymore. There is nothing in this book that she hasn’t heard at school. And the upside of her growing up and maturing is all the good books she gets to read for the first time and the great book chats we get to have.

She finished this book in a day and we did have a great conversation about it. I didn’t think anything about it until a few days later when she told me that the book was right, just being kind to people pays off in ways you might never imagine. Just because a person was shy or didn’t speak up didn’t mean they were invisible. Don’t you love it as a parent when a book becomes a teaching moment?

Then, she told me that for Christmas she wanted a “really old typewriter, like Charlie’s, to write stories on.” Maybe she is just trying to butter me up because I know that she also wants a pair of ridiculously expensive Ugg Boots for Christmas. Whatever. It’s working.

-Shannon, StorySnoop

Not just your mother’s author anymore!

Monday, October 8th, 2012

Back when we started reading for StorySnoops the biggest sacrifice (at least for this Snoop, who reads so much slower than her counterparts!) we had to make was to give up reading our beloved adult books.  And while we occasionally pick up something from a favorite adult author, the majority of those precious reading hours are spent with an entirely different group of folks. But imagine our delight when we see one of our old friends taking a dip in the Young Adult pool—so exciting!

Writing for a young audience is an entirely different ball game though. If it were a slam-dunk, everybody would be doing it, right? So clearly the ability to write for kids with an authentic voice that will speak to them without patronizing them is a talent. These teens are whip-smart and can smell a fake voice a mile away, so pretenders looking for low-hanging fruit in the YA market need not apply. Recognizing who is good at writing for kids versus writing for adults is a lot like watching good teachers and youth leaders in action—there are clearly people in this world who have the ability to connect instantly with kids, while there are others who wouldn’t have the faintest idea how to even begin a conversation with a teenager. Success in one market by no means guarantees success in the other (with the exception of James Patterson, apparently).

Even so, we Snoops have always been positively giddy when a favorite adult author tries their hand at writing for kids, and pick up those books immediately. And I gotta say, sometimes it works out, and sometimes, well…not so much. I’ve had the good fortune recently to pick up the new book for teens by one of my all-time fave adult authors, Elizabeth George, The Edge of Nowhere, and I LOVED it. Her characters are fabulous (as always) and authentic, the motivations seem real and I was able to dive right in to the story without spending a single minute questioning anything she wanted to tell me. The book worked for me on many levels, and I can imagine my teen diving in and enjoying it too.

On the “eh” side of the equation? I regrettably have to say John Grisham. The first book in his series for kids, Theodore Boone—Kid Lawyer, was interesting to me (I’m an adult, I understand and love a good courtroom procedural), but could I in good conscience recommend it to a kid? Sorry, but no, not yet. I’m sure there are some middle schoolers out there (somewhere) who know they want to be lawyers (maybe they watch Law & Order on TV?), but I just don’t think courtroom antics and trial loop-holes (Grisham’s bread and butter) are that relatable for kids. I’m pretty sure somebody clued him in to this fact though because the next two titles in the series take Theo outside the courtroom and focus much more on action and sleuthing (now we’re talking!). So to be fair, I’m pretty sure Mr. Grisham is learning as he goes, and I will keep reading, just to make sure.

Here is a batch of books for kids by authors you may know from the adult side of the library or bookstore. You tell me—who has made this transition successfully and who hasn’t? And as always, let us know what is missing from this list :-)

-Eden, StorySnoop

Best of Banned Books Week: The Giver, by Lois Lowry

Saturday, October 6th, 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 the 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?

In the spirit of the American Library Association’s upcoming Banned Books Week, I recently picked up The Giver, by Lois Lowry, to see what all of the fuss was about.  Surprisingly, this highly decorated book that is frequently taught in schools is also one of the Top 100 Banned or Challenged Books of the last decade for “being sexually explicit,” and having “occult themes and violence.”

In The Giver, eleven-year-old Jonas lives in a community that is completely controlled.  Residents are assigned jobs, spouses, and even children, who are given birth outside of the family by women who are designated to do so. The ultimate goal of the community is “sameness” — but this means that no one has freedom of choice.  When Jonas turns twelve, he is selected for the most honored job in the community, the Receiver of Memory.  Jonas’ predecessor, the Giver, is the community’s sole keeper of life’s memories, which allows the residents to live free of anguish.  When these memories are transmitted to Jonas, he finds that he is unable to accept the truth that comes with them.

This award-winning story is compelling and thought provoking.  As memories are transferred to Jonas, he begins to question the world around him and whether eliminating the freedom to make choices is such a good thing.  The book provides many opportunities to discuss the pitfalls of too much conformity in society, and what it would be like to have every choice made for you.

One challenged theme in The Giver is the community’s custom of “release,” which is used frequently with the elderly, rule-breakers, and newborns that are less than ideal.  Residents have no idea that when a person is “released,” they are actually euthanized by lethal injection.  When this information is transmitted to Jonas, the realization is almost unbearable because his father has “released” many newborns in his job as “Nurturer.”  This subject matter provides an excellent opportunity for young people to form their own beliefs about such practices.

Jonas also discovers that the last Receiver of Memory-in-training (the Giver’s daughter) chose to be released by injecting herself after learning the truth about the community.  While some have argued that The Giver portrays suicide as a viable option for dealing with despair, Jonas’ own actions are an excellent example of how there are always alternatives to suicide.

The fact that the book has been challenged for being sexually explicit is somewhat surprising since there is virtually no sexual content.  Each resident of the community is given daily medication to eliminate “stirrings” at the onset of sexual thoughts or feelings, so sexuality is not a part of their lives.

After reading The Giver, it is almost impossible to miss the irony.  In the past decade, there have been many attempts to control access to a book that eloquently illustrates the danger of too much control in society.  Personally, I’m with Jonas.  A society that allows people to have freedom of choice is a much better place.

-Jen, StorySnoop

Thanks so much for joining us for Banned Books Week 2012!  If you’ve missed any of the BBW 2012 series, you can find it all right here.

Best of Banned Books Week: Interview with Lois Lowry

Friday, October 5th, 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 the 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?

Our guest today is Lois Lowry, the award-winning author of more than thirty books for children, including one of the most frequently challenged books for the past decade, The Giver.

Thanks for joining us today Lois.  We’re thrilled to have you!

For anyone who has read The Giver, it is almost impossible to miss the irony.  In the past decade, there have been many attempts to control access to this book that eloquently illustrates the danger of too much control in society.  Were you surprised when The Giver was first challenged?  How has censorship affected you personally?

Yes, I was very surprised the first time I heard of an attempt to censor The Giver.  Now, of course, many years later, it has happened so often that I hardly even notice. But it does make me sad, still.

Does having a book on the frequently banned or challenged list affect your writing in any way?

No. If anything, it has made me aware how important it is to deal with serious issues in books. I don’t shy away from them, for fear of censorship; and my publisher, thankfully, feels the same way.

You have said, “I try, through writing, to convey my passionate awareness that we live intertwined on this planet and that our future depends upon our caring more, and doing more, for one another.”  What is the ultimate impact of censorship on this message?

I stand by that message, even though I said those words many years ago.  I care about today’s kids and worry about their future. So I try in my own way to stand for the things that will guarantee their freedom. Fighting censorship is important. All totalitarian governments restrict freedom of speech. We have to work to guard against that kind of ominous governmental intrusion.

Many of your books, including Newbery Award winner Number the Stars, touch upon this theme.  What experiences in you own life have made human connections the focus of your writing?

I grew up during WW II and have lived, now, through many other conflicts. My son was a military officer killed in a fighter plane. I am unendingly aware of the sacrifices all of us make on behalf of democracy and individual freedoms.

And now some questions from a Junior Snoop, who just read The Giver in middle school.

• The ending of the Giver is unclear. Did Jonas reach Elsewhere, or did you leave it intentionally open for interpretation?

I left it open to interpretation at first but have gone on, now to write three other books to follow The Giver.  The first two are Gathering Blue and Messenger,  The third is written but not yet titled or published. Jonas…and Gabriel…are major characters in it.

• Is there a reason that you ended the Giver with Jonas on the sled? Does it have any relation to the fact that riding on the sled was the first memory Jonas received?

When a writer inserts a strong image…..such as the memory of the sled…..that writer will usually repeat the image later in the book. (Now that I have told you that, you will start to notice it in other books!)

Join us tomorrow for the StorySnoops SuperScoop review of The Giver. And if you’ve missed any of our BBW 2012 posts you can find them right here.