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 – July

The Book Thief - Paperback

“She could smell the pages. She could almost taste the words as they stacked up around her.” — Markus Zusak, The Book Thief.

In case you’re still wondering, our tweens-teens’ book selection for July is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Here’s what one of our teens wrote about the book:

I love this book! It is about a girl named Liesel, who is sent to the home of her foster parents after her brother’s death. She is faced with all the Nazi’s horrors and struggles. During this time, her foster family, who is German, hides a Jewish man named Max in order to protect him from the danger of getting killed by the Nazi soldiers. Meanwhile, this action of hiding a Jewish person puts them at an even greater risk of getting killed themselves. This goes on for a while.

Over time, Liesel’s foster father, Hans Hubermann, begins secretly teaching her to read as books are being burned and destroyed by Nazi soldiers. Liesel then secretly shares all that she’s learning with Max, considering he’s unable to read. Liesel also begins stealing books from a library to get ideas and inspirations to create her own stories. As the war becomes more dangerous, Max decides to leave the family, as he feels that his staying would continue to keep them in great danger.

Only a few nights after Max leaves, Liesel’s city is bombed, leaving very few survivors. Liesel is the lone survivor in her family. Fast-forward to two years later Liesel and Max are reunited inside a shop owned by one of her friend’s father. They immediately greet each other with a hug, a somewhat happy ending following a series of tragic beginnings.

The book inspires me because it depicts the true value and meaning of friendship and kindness towards others. Leisel’s family is willing to risk their lives to protect Max (by keeping him in their home), and Max is willing to risk his life to protect theirs (by leaving their home). No one is thinking of the well-being of oneself but rather of the well-being of the other. I find that rather admirable and honorable.

Also, as Liesel is taught to read, she pays it forward by teaching Max to read. As a teen, I feel these are lessons that are much needed among teens today  — lessons of kindness, compassion, generosity, unselfishness, friendship, etc. I love the book and would highly recommend it to all tweens and teens.   —Gabe, 14 years old.

As always, we love to hear your thoughts on books. You may leave a comment or two on this book or other books you and your young readers are reading.

By Dawn Hoff, Book Kids

 

13 Children’s Books Honoring and Celebrating Dads

Books can be used for both educational and entertaining purposes during holidays. Some books may teach kids about the history and purpose of a holiday, while others may simply entertain and bring out the holiday spirit in kids. Some books do both. Here are 13 Father’s Day children’s books that will bring out the holiday spirit in kids, while honoring and celebrating dads.

My Dad Can Do Anything

1. My Dad Can Do Anything by Stephen Krensky (Author), Mike Wohnoutka (Illustrator) -Ages 3 – 7 years

Overview: What can your dad do? Can he climb the highest mountain? Or swim to the bottom of the sea? In this heartwarming story about how dads are strong, brave, and all-around great, dads can do anything. Includes a sheet of fun stickers!

The Night Before Father's Day

 

2. The Night Before Father’s Day by Natasha Wing (Author), Amy Wummer (illustrator) -Ages 3 – 5 years

Overview: It’s the night before Father’s Day, and Mom and the kids have a plan to surprise Dad with a special gift. When Dad goes for a bike ride, everyone gets to work. Dad wakes up the next day to find his garage newly organized and his car sparkly clean. So, of course, he celebrates by taking everyone for a spin! This book goes along with The Night Before Mother’s Day.

Hero-Dad

3. Hero Dad by Melinda Hardin (Author), Bryan Langdo (Illustrator) -Ages 3 – 5 years

Overview: A boy compares his father, a U.S. soldier, to a superhero. This book goes along with Hero Mom.

Father's Day Book

4. Father’s Day by Anne Rockwell (Author), Lizzy Rockwell (Illustrator) -Ages 4 – 8 years

Overview: In Mrs. Madoff’s class, it’s a book made just for him. First the kids think about their special moments with their fathers. Sam’s dad is so strong, he can carry Sam on his shoulders. Eveline’s dad sings to her when Maman has to work at night. Jessica writes about her father in Texas … and her stepfather at home. And when it’s time to celebrate at school, both of her fathers give Jessica the best surprise of all. This book goes along with Mother’s Day.

Up on Daddy's Shoulders 1

5. Up on Daddy’s Shoulders by Matt Berry (Author), Lucy Corvino (Illustrator) -Ages 3 – 5 years

Overview: Feeling taller than his big brother, his house, and the giraffes at the zoo, a little boy spends the day on his daddy’s shoulders as they go for a walk around their neighborhood.

A Father's Song

6. A Father’s Song by Janet Lawler (Author), Lucy Corvino (Illustrator) -Ages 3 – 6 years

Overview: How many ways can dad show his love? He can lift his son high in the air, gather him close for a ride down the slide, make funny faces to ward away tears, and fly him around “like an airplane that swoops.” Together, they’ll roll in the leaves, go on the swings, and roar like lions. Best of all, the verse offers fathers plenty of opportunities to play as they read–to tussle and hug, and to make silly sounds and expressions. And that means kids will want their dads to share this with them over and over again. What a delightful celebration of the bond between father and child–and a tale to make Father’s Day extra special. This book goes along with A Mother’s Song.

I Love My Daddy Because

7. I Love My Daddy Because… by Laurel Porter Gaylor (Author), Ashley Wolff (Illustrator) -Ages 1 – 3 years

Overview: The youngest nursery tots will appreciate how phrases and actions from their own experiences also apply to animal babies.  The book begins with an affectionate scene between a human parent and child, but moves on to caregiving in animal families.  “He sings me songs” shows a gray wolf and his cub.  In concept, text, and art, this is among the most warm and reassuring lap books ever. This book goes along with I Love My Mommy Because…

Daddy's Little Scout

8. Daddy’s Little Scout by Janet Bingham (Author), Rosalind Beardshaw (Illustrator) -Ages 4 – 8 years

Overview: It’s springtime, and Little Fox and Daddy Fox are visiting the animals of the forest to see their new homes. Mrs. Finch is building a new nest. The rabbit family is making new rabbit holes. And Mr. Mole is digging new tunnels. Little Fox is outgrowing their old den, and the Foxes will need a new home, too. Little Fox is glad that their new home will not be high in a tree, in a prickly bush, or in a cold wet stream. Little Fox realizes that the best home is snug and warm in a den . . . with Daddy Fox! This book goes along with Mommy’s Little Star.

Saturday Is Dadurday

9. Saturday Is Dadurday by Robin Pulver (Author), R. W. Alley (Illustrator) -Ages 4 – 8 years

Overview: For Mimi, the best day of the week is always Saturday, because she gets to spend it with just her Dad. Every “Dadurday” begins the same way–Mimi and Dad make silly-shaped pancakes, read the comics section of the newspaper and make lists of fun things to do together. But when Dad gets a new work schedule, “Dadurday” is ruined. Can Mimi find a way to still make it a special day for her and dad?

Daddy Calls Me Man

10. Daddy Calls Me Man by Angela Johnson (Author), Rhonda Mitchell (Illustrator)- Ages 3 and up

Overview: Inspired by his family experiences and his parents’ paintings, a young boy creates four poems. In four vibrant verses and spectacular oil paintings, a young boy revels in the everyday pleasures of growing up in a family of fine artists. A still life of shoes inspires Noah to measure his own little ones against the big ones of his father. The whirl of an abstract painting encourages him to spin with his older sister. The moon outside his window is the same one that glows on his mother’s canvas. But the subject that brings out the best in Noah — and inspires his daddy to call him a man — has her crib right there in his parents’ studio. With its bold colors and arresting perspectives, this book is a celebration of art and an exaltation of family.

SPECIAL BOOKS:

Father’s Day is a joyous holiday to celebrate and honor fathers. Unfortunately, not all children welcome it with open arms. In fact, many kids spend Father’s Day without their fathers, due to incarceration, divorce, and death. While it is never a pleasant experience to watch one’s parent(s) go to jail, go through divorce, or die, sadly, many kids are having to experience just that. As Father’s Day approaches, these books will serve to help these kids understand and cope with these difficult life challenges.

The Night Dad Went to Jail

11. The Night Dad Went to Jail: What to Expect When Someone You Love Goes to Jail (Life’s Challenges) by Melissa Higgins (Author), Wednesday Kirwan (Illustrator) -Ages 5 – 8 years

Overview: When someone you love goes to jail, you might feel lost, scared, and even mad. What do you do? No matter who your loved one is, this story can help you through the tough times.

Weekends with Dad

12. Weekends with Dad: What to Expect when Your Parents Divorce (Life’s Challenges) by Melissa Higgins (Author), Wednesday Kirwan (Illustrator) -Ages 5 – 8 years

Overview: When your parents divorce, it can feel like the world turns upside down. What do you do? Whether you live mostly at your moms or dads, this story can help you through the tough times.

Where Are You - Book

13. Where Are You? A Child’s Book About Loss by Laura Olivieri (Author), Kristin Elder (Illustrator) -Ages 4 – 8 years

Overview: Where Are You: A Child’s Book About Loss is a kind and supportive text with beautiful illustrations designed to help children of all ages cope with the loss of a loved one. It is created with love and care so that even the youngest readers will find comfort during this stressful and difficult time.

As always, we love to hear your thoughts on books. What books are you reading together to celebrate Father’s Day? You may leave a comment or two.

By Dawn Hoff, Book Kids

 

Book Club – Book of the Month – May

NEST - ESTHER EHRLICH

Our tweens-teens’ book selection for May is Nest by Esther Ehrlich. I must say, this was one of the toughest book club decisions thus far, and I’ll explain why in a minute.

When I started our tweens-teens’ book club, our approach to selecting books was simple ― we read it, we like it, we share it. That seemed simple enough … until we actually started diving deeper and deeper into the books. Now, we read it, we like it, we then wonder whether to share it. Liking a book is one thing, recommending it is another.

While we love to recommend every book we read and like, we sometimes wrestle with whether the theme is too dark or heavy for teens, let alone tweens. Nest is one of those books we wrestled with. The book tackles many deep and dark topics such as terminal illness, depression, and ultimately death. While trying not give too much away, I feeI the need to give parents the heads up.

Ultimately, our decision was influenced by the fact that the book raises awareness of these issues, real life situations.  Life doesn’t always have fairytale beginnings, middles, or endings. In fact, life rarely does, and children ought to be aware of that. This reminds me of a quote I came across recently: “One thing we shouldn’t do is shield kids from everyday frustrations. They need to experience everyday failures and challenges. It’s the kids who never feel frustrated who are vulnerable later.” And I feel this book coveys this message quite well.

Having said all this, I should mention that this is a book we read, we liked, and we shared. Nonetheless, parental guidance and discretion are advised. I think it’s a great book. I will, however, suggest parents read it either before or with your tweens or teens, as it will open doors to a whole lot of challenging questions and interesting discussions. After all, isn’t that what we want anyway? Thoughts?

By: Dawn Hoff, Book Kids

Book Synopsis: For fans of Jennifer Holm (Penny from Heaven, Turtle in Paradise), a heartfelt and unforgettable middle-grade novel about an irresistible girl and her family, tragic change, and the healing power of love and friendship. In 1972 home is a cozy nest on Cape Cod for eleven-year-old Naomi “Chirp” Orenstein, her older sister, Rachel; her psychiatrist father; and her dancer mother. But then Chirp’s mom develops symptoms of a serious disease, and everything changes.

Chirp finds comfort in watching her beloved wild birds. She also finds a true friend in Joey, the mysterious boy who lives across the street. Together they create their own private world and come up with the perfect plan: Escape. Adventure. Discovery.

Nest is Esther Ehrlich’s stunning debut novel. Her lyrical writing is honest, humorous, and deeply affecting. Chirp and Joey will steal your heart. Long after you finish Nest, the spirit of Chirp and her loving family will stay with you.