Book Club – Book of the Month – May


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.

Bite-Sized Reading Resolutions with Oversized Results

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New Year’s resolutions have their ups and downs. They are as easy to break as they are to make. For this reason, more and more people prefer to shy away from making them rather than deal with the disappointments of breaking them.

This is especially true when it comes to reading resolutions. We can certainly guarantee falling off the reading wagon at some point during the year, more times than we’d like to admit. Typically, we do when our expectations either exceed or fail to measure up to our abilities and level of commitment.

Truth is, we all mean well and have good intentions. The problem is we sometimes set the bar too high and become overwhelmed and discouraged before we even begin;  our goal then becomes seemingly unreachable. Other times we set it too low and become under-challenged and bored; our goal then becomes dull and meaningless. The solution is making sure the bar we set for ourselves align with our abilities and level of commitment. See how well these align with your abilities and level of commitment:

1. Read daily. I read daily, no matter how lengthy or short the reading material is. On a busy day, I read something short. On a less busy day, I read something lengthy.  Reading doesn’t necessarily have to consist of reading a book. Reading a newspaper or magazine article is indeed considered reading.

2. Visit a library weekly. Even when I don’t have a book in mind, I go anyway. Usually, I end up with a book or two that are well worth the trip. I also find that my weekly trips to the library amount to me reading more books, considering the fact that I am borrowing and returning books on a weekly basis.

3. Organize a family book club monthly. Select a book the entire family can read and discuss it on a monthly basis. This has been especially simple and doable for my family because our family book selection usually falls in line with Book Kids’ Book of the Month.  We encourage you to use this as your book selection guide as well.

4. Purchase a book quarterly. Treat yourself to a book you’ve always wanted and simply can’t wait to dive into. I use this as a reading reward for my kids and they love it.

5. Visit a book event biannually. Check your local event or community calendar for book events. These are usually held at schools, libraries, bookstores, community centers, etc. Moreover, these are held throughout the year so you’re bound to find one you and your family can attend.

6. Meet an author annually. Authors are touring year-round. Track down your favorites. This can also be a great opportunity to purchase an autographed copy of a book by your favorite author, a great supplement to your quarterly book purchase.

Keep in mind that, like any resolution, these reading resolutions aren’t one-size-fits-all; particularly taking into consideration the daily demands of life pushing and pulling us all in various directions. What works for one may not work for another. These, however, are easy-to-follow suggestions that will help keep you from falling off the reading wagon. Remain persistent and the rewards will be well worth the efforts. Happy New Year! Happy Reading!

What are your New Year’s reading resolutions? We would love to hear about them. Please leave a comment or two below.

By: Dawn Hoff, Book Kids

Thanks & Giving: All Year Long

Thanks & Giving

While my family doesn’t celebrate every holiday, we celebrate books every holiday. Books have become a vital aspect of our pre, during, and post holiday celebrations. During any given holiday, we browse our local library bookshelves, racking up holiday books to read during that particular holiday. Nonetheless, over the years, we’ve noticed a certain pattern. The sooner we go, the greater our chances of finding great holiday books. Whereas, the later we go, the lesser our chances of finding them. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, considering it indicates that kids are actually reading books, more and more. However, that was of little consolation to the fact that a few years ago we got there later, only to find that all the great kids’ holiday books were GONE! Except one: Thanks & Giving: All Year Long by Marlo Thomas and Christopher Cerf.

I am not exactly sure why this book was still sitting on the shelf. I almost left it because I thought, “If this book is still sitting on this shelf, collecting dust, on the day before Thanksgiving, it must not be all that good or good at all.” Then I decided, “I have nothing to lose by checking this book out because after all, I don’t have that much of an option; after all, all the good books are taken anyway…and if we were to read anything Thanksgiving related, we’d have to take this book home with us,” …and we did!

Fast forward, almost seven years later, and we are still reading this book. Reading this book together during Thanksgiving has become a family tradition. Needless to say, borrowing this book from our local library some years ago has become one of the best decisions we’ve made when it comes to books. Here’s why:

1. This book practices what it preaches. Not only is the book about ‘thanks and giving’ the book itself is ‘thanks and giving’ meaning it serves as a fundraiser and that in itself provides the opportunity for giving.  All of the royalties from this book go to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to aid with research and medicine. While we can easily obtain copies from most libraries, I’ve decided to purchase a personal copy specifically for this reason and purpose. I encourage you all, in the spirit and season of thanksgiving, to do so as well. You can find out more about the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital at

2. This book emphasizes ‘thanksgiving’ year-round. The attitude of gratitude and generosity is most often associated exclusively with Thanksgiving Day, when, in fact, it should be highlighted and practiced  year-round; and this book places very high emphasis on that, in the most understandable and exciting way kids can easily grasp.  Marlo Thomas writes “I love that the word “Thanksgiving” brings together two great ideas -thanks and giving- that we can celebrate every day of the year…so you see, we thank and give every day.”

3. This book provides lessons for all ages. Whenever I read aloud to my kids or have them read alone, I am often amazed at the lessons they pick up on from the book; nevertheless, what amazes me even more is that I end up learning as much, if not more from the “children’s book.” This book is the perfect example of that. There are great lessons to be learned and applied by all ages, not just kids; and this book is loaded with them.

4. This book boosts enthusiasm and interest. To put it simply, this is not a boring book at all. It is jam-packed with rich text and illustrations (through stories, songs, poems, comics, quizzes, etc.) that entice and captivate its readers interest and attention from beginning to end. When you pick up this book, know that there will be more than just reading involved. There will be a whole lot of singing, dancing, reciting, laughing, and anything else imaginable. This book is a very fun and interesting read for kids and adults alike.

5. This book represents diversity on so many levels. First, it has such rich, diverse mix of stories, songs, poems, comics, quizzes, etc., that are bound to appeal to kids of various reading interest, levels, and styles. Second, diversity is so richly embedded in its brilliant, colorful illustrations and text that it has great tendencies to attract kids of diverse backgrounds. Third, the obvious, diverse mix of contributors (authors, illustrators, poets, actors, musicians, athletes, etc.) all adding their own unique, personal perspectives and views to the mix, undoubtedly puts this book at a higher advantage of attracting and reaching diverse readers. Rarely do we find a kids’ book with such a diverse mix.  

As I write this, I am reminded of Frank Serafini’s  profound quote, “There is no such thing as a child who hates to read; there are only children who have not found the right book.” Parents, teachers, and all other adults, this book has proven to be the right book for my kids; and it might well be the right book for the kids in your lives as well. Give it a shot! Meanwhile, I would love to hear about books that have become a part of your family’s holiday tradition. Please leave a comment or two below. Happy Thanksgiving! Happy Reading!

By: Dawn Hoff, Book Kids



30 Fantastic Fall Books for Kids

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The changing of seasons is a great opportunity to get kids excited about new and different kinds of books. Summer is slowly fading away as autumn is fast approaching. We have compiled 30 fantastic fall favorites to help get your kids into the fall spirit.

These books will help them experience the scent, sight, touch, sound, and taste of the beauty of autumn through books the scent of pumpkin spice and apple pies; the sight of brightly colored leaves; the touch of cool, crisp autumn breeze; the sounds and whispers of migrating geese; the taste of mouthwatering candy corns and other fall treats; and much more. Hope your young readers will enjoy reading these fall books as much as ours have.

As always, we love hearing your thoughts on books. You may leave a comment or two about these books or other books that are on your kids’ fall reading list.

The Biggest Apple Ever (Author) Steven Kroll (Illustrator) Jeni Bassett (Ages 4-8)

The Apple Tree Pie (Author) Zoe Hall (Illustrator) Shari Halpern (Ages 4-8)

I Love Fall (Author) Alison Inches (Illustrator) Hiroe Nakata (Ages 2-up)

Dog and Bear: Tricks and Treats (Author, Illustrator) Laura Vaccaro Seeger (Ages 3-7)

Autumn Colors (Author, Illustrator) Laura Tovar (Ages 4-8)

Corduroy’s Best Halloween Ever! (Author) Don Freeman (Illustrator) Lisa McCue (Ages 4-8)

The Pumpkin Patch (Author) Margaret McNamara (Illustrator) Mike Gordon (Ages 4-6)

There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Leaves! (Author) Lucille Colandro (Illustrator) Jared Lee (Ages 3-5)

Why Do Leaves Change Color? (Author) Betsy Maestro (Illustrator) Loretta Krupinski (Ages 4-8)

Leaves Fall Down (Author) Lisa Bullard (Illustrator) Nadine Takvorian (Ages 4-8)

P Is for Pumpkin: God’s Harvest Alphabet (Author) Kathy-jo Wargin (Illustrator) YaWen Ariel Pang (Ages 4-8)

The Runaway Pumpkin (Author) Kevin Lewis (Illustrator) S. D. Schindler (Ages 3-5)

Lucky Leaf (Author, Illustrator) Kevin O’Malley (Ages 4-7)

Duck & Goose, Find a Pumpkin (Author, Illustrator) Tad Hills (Ages 2-3)

Bad Apple: A Tale of Friendship (Author, Illustrator) Edward Hemingway (Ages 3-5)

Leaf Trouble (Author) Jonathan Emmett (Illustrator) Caroline Jayne Church (Ages 3-7)

Pumpkin Soup (Author, Illustrator) Helen Cooper (Ages 4-8)

Apple of my Eye (Author) Joceline Lee (Illustrator) Martin Murtonen (Ages 3-Up)

Too Many Pumpkins ( Author) Linda White (Illustrator) Megan LLoyd (Ages 5-Up)

Mouse’s First Fall (Author) Lauren Thompson (Illustrator) Buket Erdogan (Ages 2-4)

Hello, Harvest Moon (Author) Ralph Fletcher (Illustrator) Kate Kiesler (Ages 4-8)

On Halloween Night (Authors) Ferida Wolff, Dolores Kozielski (Illustrator) Dolores Avendano (Ages 4-Up)

Oliver Finds His Way (Author) Phyllis Root (Illustrator) Christopher Denise (Ages 2-5)

Free Fall (Author, Illustrator) David Wiesner (Ages 4-8)

Fall Leaves (Author) Loretta Holland (Illustrator) Elly MacKay (Ages 4-8)

County Fair (Author) Laura Ingalls Wilder (Illustrator) Jody Wheeler (Ages 4-8)

Twilight Comes Twice (Author) Ralph Fletcher (Illustrator) Kate Kiesler (Ages 4-8)

Autumn is Here! (Author, Illustrator) Heidi Pross Gray (Ages 2-Up)

By the Light of the Harvest Moon (Author) Harriet Ziefert (Illustrator) Mark Jones (Ages 4-8)

The Spooky Wheels on the Bus (Author) J. Elizabeth Mills (Illustrator) Ben Mantle (Ages 3-5)


By: Dawn Hoff, Book Kids









Book Club- Book of the Month- September

gabriel finley

Book Kids’ book of the month is Gabriel Finley & the Raven’s Riddle by George Hagen. Recommended for ages 9-12.

How can twelve-year-old Gabriel find his missing father, who seems to have vanished without a trace? With the help of Paladin–a young raven with whom he has a magical bond that enables them to become one creature–he flies to the foreboding land of Aviopolis, where he must face a series of difficult challenges and unanswerable riddles that could lead to his father… or to his death.

Please leave a comment or two below, and you could win a free copy of this book. Share your views and thoughts about this book for a chance to win your free copy. A winner will be randomly selected from the comment section at the end of September. Let’s dive into some books!

* Children, please seek parental permission and guidance before commenting on all book club books. All our book picks are found on amazon. You may also check your local bookstores or libraries.

Dawn Hoff, Book Kids








5 Reading Tips to Ensure Your Book Kids Are Achieving the 20 Minutes a Day Reading Recommendation


Research (Nagy & Herman, 1987) shows that students who read at least 20 minutes daily have a clear literacy advantage over kids who read less or don’t read at all. This infographic by the Perry Lecompton School District, Perry KS depicts an alarming illustration of such findings.


Twenty minutes of reading per day may seem simple and doable. However, be ever mindful that the busyness of life can easily creep in and rob our book kids of these crucial 20 minutes of valuable reading time; and if we are not vigilant, they can easily slip into the student “C” category. Here are five simple time saving reading tips to ensure that your kids are reading at least 20 minutes a day.

1. Too much homework? Order a kid or teen magazine subscription or check some out from your local library. These make quick, fun, and easy reads, especially when everyone is crunched for time.  Kids can easily grab one during snack time or homework break and read a quick short story or two. Two of our favorites are Highlights and Stone Soup. Their beautifully illustrated short stories, great poems, excellent articles, and amazing artwork are bound to captivate your kids’ attention. Highlights is especially  jam packed with wonderful games, jokes, puzzles, riddles and other activities. 


2. Too many sports or extracurricular activities? Have lots of mini books available at all times.  These are quick, fun, and easy reads that your book kids can breeze through in a flash on the way to basketball practices or football games. Some great examples of these are the Steck-Vaughn Adventure and Mystery Books: Smoke, A Bone To Pick, Don’t Look Back, Forgotten Treasure, Stolen Bases, Buying Trouble, Please Call Back!, Modem Menace, Video Quest, Road Rally, and many others.  My kids particularly love them because they are full of suspense and adventure; and I love them because they are great on-the-go-books.


3. Too much time with technology? Incorporate technology into the reading process. We live in an age where kids and technology seem to be almost inseparable. While technology can be a major time thief, using it as a reading and educational tool can be another great way to squeeze in that 20 minutes of reading. There are substantial amounts or reading and educational materials on the internet; and with some supervision and monitoring on the part of the parent, everyone benefits ultimately -your book kids are excited that they get a technology break, and you are thrilled that they get some reading done in the process.



4. Too many chores? Whip out those flash cards or vocabulary words. Chores are inevitable and can take up an incredible amount of time on a daily basis. If we are not observant, they can easily zap up a tremendous amount of valuable reading time. If you can’t minimize the chores, maximize the time by having your kids read their flash cards or study their vocabulary words while tackling their chores. Ultimately, they end up accomplishing three things all at once: reading, homework and chores. It doesn’t get any better or easier than this.

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 5. Too little interest or enthusiasm for reading? Stock up on some educational board games. Let’s face it, even our little book enthusiasts have days when they simply do not want to read. For such a time as this, these games come in very handy. Playing a quick game of Scrabble, Trivia Pursuit, Boggle, Jr. and others alike can easily expose your book kids to hundreds of words within minutes; and they actually get to have fun playing with words. They may not have the urge to grab a book to read at the moment, but they certainly wouldn’t mind joining in on a good game of Scrabble.

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All things considered, there is no substitute for a good book. Ideally, every child is reading at least 20 minutes per day; realistically, not every child is. These five effortless, time saving tips will help ensure that your kids are at least achieving the 20 minutes a day reading recommendation. Anything more is an added bonus.  Happy quick, fun, and easy reading!

By: Dawn Hoff, Book Kids