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

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