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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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 – June

Narnia - Image1

“Epic battles between good and evil, fantastic creatures, betrayals, heroic deeds, and friendships won and lost all come together in this unforgettable world, which has been enchanting readers of all ages for over sixty years.” What world? Narnia.

Narnia1

In the wake of the end-of-school-year burnout, following a series of heavy book club reads and school required readings, we’ve decided that it’s time for some fun and adventure. Thus, we’ve selected C. S. Lewis’ timeless classic series, The Chronicles of Narnia as our June tweens-teens’ book club selection.  Many of our young readers have read the entire series, others have read some. This is an opportunity for everyone to get through all the books together and have much fun in the process. In order to make this month’s reading a bit more interesting, exciting, adventurous, and educational, we’ve added a few extras.

1. Activity Guide (Courtesy of Ingram Content group). We recommend incorporating this activity guide into the reading discussions. This activity guide is an excellent resource, consisting of four major components: Setting the Scene, Questions for Group Discussions, Discuss Quotes, and Journal Writings. It also includes several independent projects for individuals. While this is designed for classroom use, it can be used in any group or individual setting. Teachers, parents, you’d want to bookmark this. Here’s the link

2. Narnia Movies. We recommend integrating the Narnia movies into the reading process for both entertainment and educational purposes. Our “Using Movies as a Motivational Tool to Get Kids Reading” offers greater insights on this topic. Here’s the link.

3. Narnia Board Games. You can almost never go wrong with board games. Kids and adults love them, they can be entertaining and educational, and they work well as great family or group activities. These are great supplements to the reading process. These can be found at toy stores, bookstores, and online.

4. Theatrical Productions. Depending on dates, times, locations, availability, and price, one may or may not be able to attend a Narnia theatrical production. Nonetheless, the idea is definitely worth considering. Kids and adults love theatrical productions, and watching one such as this could be nothing less than magical.

5. Theme Parks’ Narnia Attractions. This goes hand-in-hand with theatrical productions. Again depending on the aforementioned, this may or may not be practical at the moment. However, it is once again an idea worth exploring. Check your local or national listings of theme parks and attractions.

This is just scratching the surface. There are many ways to make book club readings exciting and adventurous while still maintaining their educational aspect. These are just a few hand-picked suggestions to apply to this particular series. We welcome you to read along as we explore the world of Narnia. And as always, we love hearing your thoughts on books. You may leave a comment or two on this series or other books you are currently reading. Happy reading!

By Dawn Hoff, Book Kids