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

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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

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 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

 

 

 

 

 

Bandwagon Fans: When Life Mimics Football

Super Bowl - Image

Imagine this: Your team is on a winning streak; fans are on extreme highs. Eight consecutive wins, twelve overall. NFC South champions? Wow! Can’t beat that! Pep rallies, tailgate parties and festivities are almost everywhere. Not to mention the much anticipated positive media coverage. Team colors are dominating the crowded city streets. Fireworks decorating the skies. Sold-out stadium seats and team gears becoming all too common. High spirits and enthusiasms are in full effect. And then, in an instant, it happens. Your team messes up! They slip! They lose!  

And then there is life: You are on a winning streak. How? You are fulfilling, meeting, or perhaps even exceeding all of life’s expectations -yours, as well as everyone else’s. You are doing all that is asked, desired, required and/or expected of you. You are overachieving in many, if not all, aspects of life. You are realizing every dream that can possibly be dreamt. You are on an extreme high …the sky is the limit. The world loves and accepts you; it embraces and honors you; it cherishes and glorifies you; it is grateful, respectful, faithful, kind, loyal, and loving toward you. And then, in an instant, it happens. You mess up! You slip! You lose!

Now back to your team: Your team has lost. It doesn’t matter that they have won the previous games, the games that actually got them into the playoffs in the first place. It doesn’t matter that they have worked tirelessly to get to this point. What matters now is that “they should NOT have lost this game.” Losing this ONE game indicates that they did not work or try hard enough this time. As a result, the celebrations and enthusiasms are dwindling by the minute; streets are becoming clear, quiet, and gloomy; and words of inspiration and encouragements are replaced by words of sarcasms and criticisms.

And then there is life: It doesn’t matter that you have overcome many struggles and won many battles, accomplished many tasks, met and exceeded many expectations; whatever you do, “just don’t slip, fall, fail or lose.” Never mind the 99 percent of the times you’ve gotten it all right, the one percent moment you slip is what has come to define you. As a result, your “fans” begin to view you as a failure, a letdown, a disappointment. They begin to distance and disassociate themselves from you. They begin to treat you unfavorably. They begin to misunderstand you, shun you, criticize you. Just to say the least. Harsh reality, isn’t it?

That leads to these burning questions: Does one’s team actually get on that ball field expecting to lose? Probably not. Do they work tirelessly, training for the game and preparing to win? Probably so. Do they beat themselves up following a loss? Perhaps! Do they need “fans” adding insult to their injury? Probably not.

Similarly, do we approach the game of life expecting or planning to fail or lose? Probably not. Do we do the best we can preparing to succeed? Probably so. For whatever reasons our efforts fail to produce the best possible outcome, do we beat ourselves up? Perhaps! Do we need others adding insult to our injury by “helping” us beat ourselves up? Probably not.

There is a lesson to be learned here (from the game of football and the game of life), and that is, once we start focusing on the entire game season or life in its entirety rather than one unfortunate, flawed aspect of it,  we can learn to love, accept, appreciate and enjoy the game. No game is perfect. No one is perfect. Life isn’t perfect. There will be winning and losing in sports and life. So what do we do, as players and spectators of the game (of football and life)? We rise up, we revamp, and when all else fails, we keep pounding!!

As one football fan puts it, “The one good thing about losing is the absolute assurance that all the bandwagon fans  have officially left the station.” Any bandwagon fans in your life, those who choose not to stick around during your trials? Praise and thank God that they have officially exited; now you know who your real fans/ friends are. Hope everyone enjoys the Super Bowl! 

By Dawn Hoff, Book Kids

Kids Books - MLKThere are many ways we can honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. One way is through books. Books can be a powerful tool in educating kids on Dr. King’s contributions to humanity, particularly human rights and civil rights. Civil rights can be a rather complicated topic for young kids to tackle and absorb; that’s why we’ve selected these 10 books. 

We’ve chosen them primarily because they cover everything from Dr. King’s childhood to his adult years in the simplest ways kids can easily comprehend. They provide greater insight and understanding of who Dr. King was and what he stood for. We would love to hear from you. Tell us about some of the children’s books you use to educate, celebrate, or honor Dr. King’s legacy. Until then, dive in and let’s reflect on the life and legacy of one of America’s greatest human rights and civil rights leaders of all times. 

MLK JR7Meet Martin Luther King Jr.  by Johnny Ray Moore (Author),  Amy Wummer (Illustrator)

Book Synopsis: This title is suitable for ages 4 to 8 years. Beginning with King’s childhood and following his life through his ” I Have a Dream Speech” and subsequent death, this book reveals (in age-appropriate language) how King ended segregation in America and influenced the way we live our lives today. (Ages 4-8 years)

MLK JR2The Story of Martin Luther King Jr.  by Johnny Ray Moore (Author),  Amy Wummer (Illustrator)

Book Synopsis: This little board book uses only approximately 200 words to tell about the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. and to explain, in simple terms, how he ended segregation in America. (Ages 2 and up)

A Picture Book of MLK JrA Picture Book of Martin Luther King, Jr.  by David A. Adler (Author), Robert Casilla (Illustrator)

Book Synopsis: “Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of America’s great leaders. He was a powerful speaker, and he spoke out against laws which kept black people out of many schools and jobs. He led protests and marches demanding fair laws for all people.” Dr. King dreamed of a world free of hate, prejudice and violence. This book is about the life and ideals of an outstanding man. (Ages 6-8 years)

The MLK JR StoryThe Martin Luther King, Jr. Story: The Boy Who Broke Barriers with Faith (Great Hero Series) by T. S. Lee (Author)

Book Synopsis: The Passionate life of Martin Luther King Jr. A leader of unfailing faith who spent his life fighting for civil rights. From a small-town nobody as a boy to the “Father” of all black people around the world, black civil rights activist Martin Luther King changed the world through his faith in man and an endless passion for peace and equality. (Ages 9 and up)

MLK JR8Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with Mrs. Park’s Class (Stories to Celebrate) by Alma Flor Ada & F Isabel Campoy (Authors)

Book Synopsis: The students in Mrs. Park’s class prepare to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Day by thinking about the values he taught. Contains an informative section on Martin Luther King, Jr. (Ages 5 and up)

MLK JR12My First Biography: Martin Luther King, Jr. by Marion Dane Bauer (Author), Jamie Smith (Illustrator) 

Book Synopsis: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a great man. His words changed the way people thought, and his actions spurred them on to change the world. With simple, lyrical text and bold, kid-friendly illustrations, this book introduces Dr. King to the youngest readers and inspires them to change the world. (Ages 4-8 years)

MLK JR6My Daddy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Martin Luther King, III (Author), AG Ford (Illustrator)

Book Synopsis: What was it like growing up as a son of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? This picture book memoir provides insight into one of history’s most fascinating families and into a special bond between father and son. “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Martin Luther King III was one of those four little children mentioned in Martin Luther King’s groundbreaking “I Have a Dream” speech. In this memoir, Martin Luther King Jr.’s son gives an intimate look at the man and the father behind the civil rights leader. Mr. King’s remembrances show both his warm, loving family and a momentous time in American history. (Ages 4-8 years)

MLK JR5 I Have a Dream by Martin Luther King, Jr. (Author), Kadir Nelson (Illustrator) 

Book Synopsis: From Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s daughter, Dr. Bernice A. King: “My father’s dream continues to live on from generation to generation, and this beautiful and powerful illustrated edition of his world-changing “I Have a Dream” speech brings his inspiring message of freedom, equality, and peace to the youngest among us—those who will one day carry his dream forward for everyone.”

On August 28, 1963, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington, Martin Luther King gave one of the most powerful and memorable speeches in our nation’s history. His words, paired with Caldecott Honor winner Kadir Nelson’s magnificent paintings, make for a picture book certain to be treasured by children and adults alike. The themes of equality and freedom for all are not only relevant today, 50 years later, but also provide young readers with an important introduction to our nation’s past. Included with the book is an audio CD of the speech. (Ages 5 and up)

My Brother Martin3My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing Up with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Christine King Farris (Author), Chris Soentpiet (Illustrator)

Book Synopsis: “Mother Dear, one day I’m going to turn this world upside down.” Long before he became a world-famous dreamer, Martin Luther King Jr. was a little boy who played jokes and practiced the piano and made friends without considering race. But growing up in the segregated south of the 1930s taught young Martin a bitter lesson—little white children and little black children were not to play with one another. Martin decided then and there that something had to be done. And so he began the journey that would change the course of American history. (Ages 6-11 years)

By: Dawn Hoff, Book Kids

Book Club – Book of the Month – January

Esperanza Rising1

 

During the Great Depression, Esperanza is compelled to abandon her comfortable lifestyle in Mexico and enter into one filled with physical, emotional, social, and financial hardships and challenges in America. How does she cope and overcome?

In case you haven’t already guessed, our January tween/ teen book club selection is Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan. We’ve highlighted this book in the past, during National Hispanic American Heritage Month as a “highly recommended read.” Moreover, due to positive responses, we’ve decided to select it as our book club pick.

This book is a fitting selection for January because it ties in so well with the general themes of a new year; themes that reflect new beginnings, fresh start, triumphs over trials, victory over obstacles, overcoming challenges, rising above, moving forward, leaving the past behind, etc. -themes of inspiration and aspiration you’re bound to find throughout the book.   

Hope you’ll enjoy reading this book with your tweens and teens. Let me leave you with a very profound proverb, reflecting one of the many great messages found in Esperanza Rising, “The rich person is richer when he becomes poor, than the poor person when he becomes rich.”  Marinate on it as you dive into this inspiring read. Happy Reading!

We would love to hear from you. What books are you reading this New Year? Please leave a comment or two below.

By: Dawn Hoff, Book Kids