Book Club – Book of the Month – February

 

Cover of The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

Our tween-teen’s book pick for February is the award-winning book, The Crossover by Kwame Alexander. Since basketball season is in full swing, our teens thought it’d be fun to dive into a book about basketball. Interestingly, although there is a major basketball phenomenon going on throughout the book, there are various off-the-court situations driving the story as well. What is interesting is the author’s unique way of tying these life situations into the game of basketball through the thoughts, words, and actions of the characters. He uses phrases like, “In this game of life” … “If you miss enough of life’s free throws” … “Never let anyone lower your goals” … Etc. The parallels between basketball and life is incredibly amazing and that is what makes this book a recommended read for both basketball and non-basketball fans.

OUR TEENS:

If you’re a basketball fan, you’ll enjoy reading this book. Here’s why:

I’m a huge basketball fan so I am definitely feeling this book. The book is so smooth, it’ll pull you into the games without you even realizing it. Josh’s first-hand narrative of each game is so descriptive and intense, it’ll have you on edge. As players drive the ball up and down the court, he describes every dribble, pass, rebound, block, steal, shot, and dunk to the point where you feel connected to the game. At the same time, you’re also absorbing the energy from the audience. You get first-hand view of their screams, hollers, cheers, laughs, chants, and trash-talking. You also get to experience their pain and anger, their fear and frustration, their anxiety and excitement, their victory and defeat … you truly get soaked in and feel as if you’re a part of the entire experience.

I don’t think I’ve ever read a book before where I felt so connected to the characters. I’ve always felt the excitement and energy from watching and playing basketball games. I couldn’t have imagined that reading about it would give me similar experience. The book is upbeat, full  of twists and turns. Many moments I never saw coming, until it hit me like a brick. Ouch! Whew! This is what makes the book so exciting and intense! I highly recommended it for all, but especially for those who love basketball.Gabe, 15 

If you’re not a basketball fan, you’ll still enjoy reading this book. Here’s why:

This would have been one of the last books I would have chosen because I am not a basketball fan. However, I soon realized that the book has more to do with life off the court than on. The book consists of small poems collectively working together to create a storyline. We meet Josh Bell, a middle school basketball phenom with great confidence, skills and potential.  We also meet his twin brother Jordan who also has great skills on the court and shoots like lightning out on the court. The twins are teammates, pals, best buddies on and off the court, through thick and thin, until a girl comes between. Their brotherly bond is almost totally shattered, but strangely and surprisingly another family tragedy reconnects and seals their bond.

Life outside the court is my favorite part of the book. I particularly love reading the interactions among the Bell family members. Their close family ties are depicted in their everyday interactions with one another. No matter what trials and tribulations they face, their bond remains strong and tight. It makes me want to  love on my family even more. The book is filled with valuable life lessons and family values that I think everyone will enjoy.  It’s a great family read for all. Gabby, 16

BOOK OVERVIEW:

“With a bolt of lightning on my kicks . . .The court is SIZZLING. My sweat is DRIZZLING. Stop all that quivering. Cuz tonight I’m delivering,” announces dread-locked, 12-year old Josh Bell. He and his twin brother Jordan are awesome on the court. But Josh has more than basketball in his blood, he’s got mad beats, too, that tell his family’s story in verse, in this fast and furious middle grade novel of family and brotherhood from Kwame Alexander (He Said, She Said 2013). Josh and Jordan must come to grips with growing up on and off the court to realize breaking the rules comes at a terrible price, as their story’s heart-stopping climax proves a game-changer for the entire family.

As always, we love hearing your thoughts on books. Leave a comment or two about this book or other books you are currently reading.

By Dawn Hoff, Book Kids

Book Club – Book of the Month – January

Chicken Soup for the Soul - Kids Series

 

During the month of January, we decided to dive into the Chicken Soup for the Soul series for kids and teens, by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, and others. We chose these books because of the inspirational stories and messages they convey. We needed something refreshing, inspiring, and uplifting to begin the New Year, and these turned out to be the best fit.  Here are a few of our personal favorites:

Chicken Soup for the Kid’s Soul: Stories of Courage, Hope, and Laughter for Kids Ages 8-12

Chicken Soup for the Kid’s Soul 2: Read-Aloud or Read-Alone Character Building Stories for kids Ages 6-10

Chicken Soup for the Preteen Soul: Stories of Changes, Choices and Growing Up for Kids Ages 9-13

Chicken Soup for the Preteen Soul 2: Stories About Facing Challenges, Realizing Dreams and Making a Difference

Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul: Stories About Life, Love and Learning

Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul II: More Stories of Life, Love and Learning

Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul III: More Stories of Life, Love and Learning

Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul IV: Stories of Life, Love and Learning

Chicken Soup for the Teen Soul: Real-Life Stories by Real Teens

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Middle School: 101 Stories of Life, Love and Learning for Younger Teens

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk High School: 101 Stories of Life, Love and Learning for Older Teens

Chicken Soup for the College Soul: Inspiring and Humorous Stories About College

Chicken Soup for the Christian Teenage Soul: Stories of Faith, Love, Inspiration and Hope

There are many more awesome books for young readers in this series. These just happen to top our children’s list of personal favorites. As always, we love hearing your thoughts on books. Leave a comment or two regarding this series or other books you and your children are currently reading.

By Dawn Hoff, Book Kids

Book Kids – Book of the Month – December

Book - A Christmas Carol - Charles DickensWe’re revisiting an old classic for the holidays, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. This is one of our all-time holiday favorites. The story begins with what one might not necessarily associate with the “Spirit of Christmas.” We are immediately introduced to the somber thoughts, words, and actions of the story’s main character Ebenezer Scrooge, whose heart is as cold, dark, and hardened as the cold, dark Christmas Eve night that surrounds him. One might immediately be tempted to close the book and move on to something more gleeful, but one shouldn’t! It all ends well. Grab yourself a copy and see how.

Book Overview:

The story of Ebenezer Scrooge opens on a Christmas Eve as cold as Scrooge’s own heart. That night, he receives three ghostly visitors: the terrifying spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come. Each takes him on a heart-stopping journey, yielding glimpses of Tiny Tim and Bob Cratchit, the horrifying spectres of Want and Ignorance, even Scrooge’s painfully hopeful younger self. Will Scrooge’s heart be opened? Can he reverse the miserable future he is forced to see? Now in an unabridged edition gloriously illustrated by the award-winning P.J. Lynch, this story’s message of love and goodwill, mercy and self-redemption resonates as keenly as ever.

Our Teen’s Take on the Book:

What better way to get into the holiday spirit than with the classic, “A Christmas Carol.”  I love reading this book, especially around this time of the year because of its message of gratitude, generosity, and hope. 1) Gratitude – No matter what we may be going through, there are those going through worse. 2) Generosity – Our time and energy are better spent getting out and helping others, rather than dwelling on negative thoughts and deeds. 3) Hope – If grumpy old Ebenezer Scrooge can change, anyone can.

The book starts out with grumpy old Ebenezer Scrooge refusing to buy heating coals for his current assistant, Bob Cratchit, who is shivering cold. Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, soon shows up and invites his uncle to his Christmas party, and obviously, he refuses. Two men later approach him to support their charity, again he refuses. He rejects every opportunity that comes his way, that could possibly help humanity. He dislikes people. He dislikes Christmas. His overall dislike of humanity is heartbreaking. And he makes it quite clear for all to hear and see. But there is hope.

Scrooge is approached by the ghost of his previous (now deceased) assistant, Jacob Marley. Marley tells Scrooge that because of his actions, he has to live a gloomy afterlife. In an effort to redeem Scrooge, Marley informs him that three ghosts (Christmas Past, Present, Future) will each pay him a visit. Soon, Scrooge falls asleep and is awakened by the three ghosts one after another.

The first reminds him of his past, specifically of the incidence of his fiancée leaving him due to selfishness and greed. The second walks him through the present, giving him a firsthand view of the poverty-stricken conditions of those around him and how he’s deliberately ignoring their cries for help. The third gives him a glimpse into his future, where he sees that people are happy and relieved that he has died.

This realization of what his future holds prompts him to promise a change of heart. He states, “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!” Scrooge wakes up a changed man. He begins his generous deeds by sending a turkey to the Cratchit family and paying a surprised visit to his nephew’s party.

The story is inspiring in the end. Once you can get past the gloom in the beginning, you’ll discover the gleam in the end. It is a very refreshing read, and I recommend it for kids and adults. Gabe, 15

As always, we love hearing your thoughts on books. You may leave a comment or two about this book or other books you are currently reading.

By Dawn Hoff, Book Kids

Eragon - Book Image

Our November tweens-teens’ book club selection is Eragon by Christopher Paolini. Eragon is the first book in the Inheritance Cycle book series.  We were persuaded into selecting this book by one of our teens who is extremely fascinated by this series. He has read the entire series several times and suggested we read it as well.  I’ll admit, I’m drawn to books 200 pages or less primarily because I’m a busy mom of five. Nonetheless, I’m willing to give it a try. Additionally, I have heard a lot of wonderful and fascinating things about the book (and series) so why put it off any longer? Let’s read Eragon!

Book Overview: 

Fifteen-year-old Eragon believes that he is merely a poor farm boy—until his destiny as a Dragon Rider is revealed. Gifted with only an ancient sword, a loyal dragon, and sage advice from an old storyteller, Eragon is soon swept into a dangerous tapestry of magic, glory, and power. Now his choices could save—or destroy—the Empire.

Here’s what our teen has to say about the book (spoiler alert):

The book begins with an evil shade named Durza who tries to kidnap a mysterious blue stone from a female elf, but is unsuccessful because the elf uses magic powers to make the stone vanish. Eragon then appears. He is a 15-year-old boy who lives with his uncle, Garrow. While hunting in the forest spine, the stone suddenly appears before him. Soon, the stone (an egg in disguise) hatches and a dragon emerges.

Eragon secretly cares for the dragon and names it Saphira. The evil King Galbatorix soon hears of this and sends two servants (Ra’zac) to find and murder Eragon. Eragon and Saphira are forced to flee their city, as his uncle is attacked and murdered. They are then accompanied by a storyteller named Brom who mentors and  trains Eragon for future battles. They journey through cities, in search of the Ra’zac. They locate them and the battle begins. Unfortunately, the Ra’zac attack Brom, who later dies from the attack. Eragon is then joined by a young arrow specialist named Murtagh.

They continue on to the military city of the Varden, a group who wants to end Galbatorix’s rule. En route, Eragon is captured and later saved by Saphira and Murtagh. They also come across and save a female elf who turns out to be the same elf that sent Saphira to Eragon. They soon reach the Varden and another battle begins. The Varden is attacked by the evil forces led by the Durza, whom in turn is defeated by Eragon. Victorious, yet exhausted and overwhelmed,  Eragon faints after the battle, then awakes, and is told to go to the city of Ellesmera where a whole new adventure begins … and so does the next book in the series, Eldest.

The book is jam-packed with battles upon battles, adventures upon adventures, and a host of mystical characters, places, and figures. This is a great novel for young teens and up who are into fantasy novels. Not only is it action-packed but it has a good inspirational plot to it too. If you’re looking for a good read, check out Eragon.  —Gabe, 14.

Book Series:   Eragon …  Eldest … Brisingr … Inheritance

Eragon

As always, we love to hear your thoughts on books. You may leave us a comment or two about this book, the series, or other books you are currently reading. Happy reading!

By: Dawn Hoff, Book Kids

 

Auggie & Me - Book

A year ago, we selected Wonder by R. J. Palacio as our tweens-teens’ book for October, in support of National Bullying Prevention Month. This year, we’ve decided to continue in our efforts to show support and spread awareness through books. We’ve chosen Auggie & Me: Three Wonder Stories by the same author, as our October book club selection.

While Wonder focuses primarily on Auggie, Auggie & Me focuses more on Julian, Christopher, and Charlotte. It contains three short stories (one for each character) that offer greater insights into their thoughts and actions and gives us a better understanding of their interactions with and reactions toward Auggie. It is a great read with a great anti-bullying message. Although this book is not a sequel to Wonder, it does give us a better understanding of each character’s life and behavior. Having said that, we recommend that you read Wonder first, if you haven’t already done so.

As always, we love hearing your thoughts on books. You may leave a comment or two about this book or other books you are reading. Happy Fall! Happy Reading!

Book Overview: These stories are an extra peek at Auggie before he started at Beecher Prep and during his first year there. Readers get to see him through the eyes of Julian, the bully; Christopher, Auggie’s oldest friend; and Charlotte, Auggie’s new friend at school. Together, these three stories are a treasure for readers who don’t want to leave Auggie behind when they finish Wonder.

By Dawn Hoff, Book Kids

Book Kids – Book of the Month – September

The Last Lecture - Randy Pausch - Book

“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. ” ― Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture.

Have you ever picked up a book to read and thought you had some idea of how the story was going to end, only to find out you were nowhere close? The first time I picked up The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch, I was absolutely certain that this would be a book about death and dying. I prepared myself for a very somber read (having followed Pausch’s story through the media).  I couldn’t have been more incorrect. After reading it, I found the book to be more about life and living. I came out with a deeper sense of appreciation for life and an increased motivation to live it to its fullest.

Pausch is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and is given only a few months to live. All the while, he has been asked to give a lecture to a group of college students. Although he is uncertain whether his health or life would hold up long enough to allow him to give this lecture, he is determined to give it anyway (with the blessing of his wife). The bulk of the book then focuses on the preparation for what would be his last lecture, particularly its content. He names the lecture “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” in which he focuses primarily on all of his childhood dreams he has accomplished.

According to Pausch, accomplishing these childhood dreams means that he has his lived his life to its fullest potential, no matter how long or short of a lifespan he has been allotted. The more he lets the readers in on these accomplishments, the more we begin to understand that although “we cannot change the cards we are dealt,” we can change “how we play the hand.” This brings me to one of my favorite quotes, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but by the moments that take our breath away.” ―Hilary Cooper.  Even if this is the only message one takes away from this book, it is well worth the read.

Our Teens Weigh In:  

This book was recommended as a school required reading, however, this is a book that I could easily choose as a recreational read. The Last Lecture is an inspirational and heartwarming book about Randy Pausch’s opinions and advice on what life is really about and what is most important. Pausch was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and was told by doctors he had a few months left of good health. He was then asked to give a lecture. He didn’t want it be like a “last will and testament.” That sounded so final, deathly, the end. He wanted it to be more about life. His main concern was to leave this lecture as a legacy for his young kids to always remember him. His lecture, however, has gone on to impact more than just his kids. It has gone on to influence millions of youth and adults around the world.

His lecture, “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” contains a mix of humor, inspiration, and emotion explaining how to go about accomplishing one’s goals. It also offers great insights and wisdom on appreciating life, not taking anything for granted, and making much out of little. Unfortunately Pausch lost his battle with pancreatic cancer but not before inspiring a bunch of people of all ages. The Last Lecture is one of the most inspiring books I have ever read. I recommend it to children and adults. ―Gabe, 14.

“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. ” ― Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture. This is one of my favorite quotes in the book because it reminds us that brick walls are only temporary roadblocks that can be overcome, depending on how much we truly want something. It helps us to understand the reasons for obstacles and how to overcome them. The book is full of inspirational quotes and life lessons. It is packed with wisdom beyond anything I have ever read. It reminds us to appreciate life even in the midst of death;  to encourage oneself and others even in the midst of discouragements; to love even in the midst of unloving circumstances; to pick out the positives even in the midst of the negatives; and to remain grateful even in the midst of adversities. All in all, the book inspires us to continue to push forward even when life tries to pull us backward.  A must-read! ―Gabby, 15

Readers, weigh in!

The Last Lecture: Video

By: Dawn Hoff, Book Kids

Book Club – Book of the Month – August

Serafina and the Black Cloak - Book

“Our character isn’t defined by the battles we win or lose, but by the battles we dare to fight.”  ― Robert Beatty, Serafina and the Black Cloak

We have chosen Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty as our tweens-teens’ book club selection for August. We first featured this book on our Facebook and twitter pages as one of our must-read summer picks and as a possible book club selection. Our initial attraction to the book was influenced by the fact that its setting, Biltmore Estate,  happens to be one of our favorite summer attractions. Our fascination grew after viewing the book trailer. Ultimately, our overall decision became set in stone after meeting the author at a local book signing event. The kids were particularly excited to meet and interact with him and the characters of the book; while the parents were highly impressed by his patience and willingness to sign all the books, take photos, and answer questions. What a great experience that was! But that’s a whole other blog post.

The book was released July 14, 2015 and immediately became a New York Times Bestseller. We bought several copies and our teens immediately dug in. The book is intriguing and addictive. This is a book that can easily suck you in and have you lose track of time because the storyline is extremely captivating. We are still reading and discussing the book, and are inviting  you to join us. Until everyone finishes, this is where we are so far:

Twelve-year-old Serafina lives with her pa in the basement of the Biltmore Estate that he helped construct. Her pa spends most of his time performing maintenance duties at the estate while Serafina spends most of her time secretly exploring the estate.  She is forbidden from venturing into the forest because “there are dark forces there that no one understands, things that ain’t natural and can do ya wicked harm.” She is restricted from interacting with dwellers and guests of the estate in order to avoid being noticed. She is also discouraged from inquiring about her past, all for reasons unknown to readers thus far.

Life, as usual as possible, for Serafina would soon take an unusual turn as she witnesses a man wearing a black cloak chasing and soon snatching a little girl. Serafina tries to save the girl but is unable to as the cloak consumes the girl. Serafina then resumes fleeing for her life, as the man in the black cloak chases after her. She is able seek refuge in one of her many secret hiding places. Nonetheless, this is just the beginning of this unusual and terrifying encounter. We can’t wait to see how this all turns out.  Hope you’ll join us in reading this book. As always, we love hearing your thoughts on books. You may leave a comment or two about this book or other books you are currently reading.  

Book Overview:
Serafina has never had a reason to disobey her pa and venture beyond the grounds of Biltmore Estate. There’s plenty to explore in Mr. and Mrs. Vanderbilt’s vast and oppulent home, but she must take care to never be seen. None of the rich folk upstairs know that Serafina exists; she and her pa, the estate’s maintenance man, have lived in the basement for as long as Serafina can remember. She has learned to prowl through the darkened corridors at night, to sneak and hide, using the mansion’s hidden doors and secret passageways.

But when children at the estate start disappearing, only Serafina knows the clues to follow. A terrifying man in a black cloak stalks Biltmore’s corridors at night. Following her own harrowing escape, Serafina risks everything by joining forces with Braeden Vanderbilt, the young nephew of Biltmore’s owners. Braeden and Serafina must uncover the Man in the Black Cloak’s true identity before all of the children vanish one by one.

Serafina’s hunt leads her into the very forest that she has been taught to fear, where she discovers a forgotten legacy of magic. In order to save the children of Biltmore, Serafina must not only face her darkest enemy, but delve into the strange mystery of her own identity.

Book Trailer:

By Dawn Hoff, Book Kids