Friday, October 30, 2015

Haunting Stories for the Older Kids

We cannot leave out the middle grade and young adult readers out there who love a good book to curl up with on a cold Halloween weekend. Here are just a few that I enjoyed and found spooky enough that will add to the chill.  This is just a tidbit of a description; but you can click on the link to find my full reviews.

Happy Halloween......................


A Curious Tale of the In-Between is one of those stories that will leave you with that spooky feeling. Eleven year old Pram has the unique ability to see and talk to ghosts. Her aunts feel she needs to be among other children her own age and decide to send her to school. She meets a boy named Clarence who takes her to a spiritualist with the hope of helping her find answers to questions they both have about past people in their lives; unaware the Lady Savant has some strange plans of her own. This was a fast-paced middle grade read by a wonderful author. I found myself not wanting to put it down. I think this is a "just right book" for ages 11 (mature 11) and up.~

Title: A Curious Tale of the In-Between
Author: Lauren DeStefano
Pub. Date: September 2015, Bloomsbury USA


The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall will give kids spine tingling shivers. It had many exciting thrills for such a short story and I enjoyed this classic styled ghost tale. The words and characters had a wonderful 19th Century English feel to it and I loved the many references of classic book titles and authors.  When Florence encounters Sophia's ghost, it is evident that she was not only nasty in life but it carried over to her afterlife with a vengeance. I know that I really enjoyed this book a while back and think it is a "just right book" for ages 10 and up.~

Title:  The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall
Author: Mary Hahn Downing
Pub. Date: September 2010, Clarion Books


Cryer's Cross was a very unusual story with many eerie elements to it. The main character was a teenage girl named Kendall who had OCD, a best friend who wasn't sure if he was a boyfriend, a new guy that was hard to connect to, the mystery of missing teenagers, a little bit of romance, adults with secret pasts and some supernatural elements. It had a lot packed into this fast paced, easy-to-read book. I found myself reading it in one day because I was determined to find out what was with the creepy desk? I have been meaning to find some other books by this author to read.  I think this is a "just right book" for ages 14 and up.~

Title: Cryer's Cross
Author: Lisa McMann
Pub. Date:  February 2011, Simon Pulse


I thought the cover of The Revenant was very striking and definitely caught my eye. I was glad that I found it because it turned out to be a really good book.  This was a simple but chilling historical ghost story that was filled with mystery, murder, plenty of secrets, romance and of course, suspense. It had many twists and turns that were unexpected. Just when I thought I had it figured out, I was pleasantly surprised by another outcome. I think this is a "just right book" for ages 15 and up.~

Title:  The Revenant
Author: Sonia Gensler
Pub. Date:  June 2011, Knopf Books


Imaginary Girls was another beautiful cover but I had a tough time getting into this one. Once I started reading more, I then realized that it was turning out better than I first thought. I picked up on the beautiful writing talents of the author and ended up surprisingly captivated by this supernatural story after all. I found myself eager to read into the next chapter to see what was going to happen. I was glad that I gave it a chance before abandoning it.  I think this is a "just right book" for ages 16 and up.~

Title: Imaginary Girls
Author: Nova Ren Suma
Pub. Date: June 2011, Dutton Juvenile

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Halloween Fun Reading!

I cannot believe it is already October and this weekend Halloween is fast approaching. To help get everyone into the Halloween Spirit before trick-or-treating, here are a few fun books to share that will get you started for that evening of Witches Brew and Things that go Bump in the Night!

Happy Halloween....................


Seven orange pumpkins are counting down to Halloween with the help of a scarecrow, a mummy, a witch, a couple of skeletons and a spooky large spider. This is a cute rhyming board book with lots of bright Halloween colors. I think this is a "just right book" for ages 2-4.~

Title: Seven Orange Pumpkins
Author: Stephen Savage
Pub. Date: August 2015, Dial Books


I think Otter stories and his adventures are just the cutest! Here is another great one to add to the Otter lovers out there. Halloween is the best time of year but also the busiest getting everything ready. There are pumpkins to find and costumes to make but when the trick-or-treaters arrive, they are a bit too scary for him. So Otter Keeper comes up with a solution so Otter and his friends can get back to having fun.  I think this is a "just right book" for ages 3-5.~

Title: Otter Loves Halloween
Author: Sam Garton
Pub. Date: July 2015, Balzer & Bray


A friendly witch rides her broomstick cheerfully around the forest with her cat. Along the way, she looses several items and one-by-one are found and returned by several new animal friends. Each one asks if they can have a ride on her broom. Their adventure takes a turn as the broomstick snaps and the witch is confronted by a hungry dragon after tumbling to the ground. The rhyming text flows nicely making for an easy read-aloud.  The illustrations are colorful and with so many characters, each one could be read in different voices adding to the entertaining storyline.  It also depicts kindness and friendship with friends helping other friends in need. I think this is a "just right book" for ages 3 - 7.~

Title: Room on the Broom
Author: Julia Donaldson
Pub. Date: August 2003, Puffin Books


As told from Hercules' perspective, this cute and charming story is a wonderful tale not only about the planting process but also learning to have patience as well. With the wisdom and guidance from his new friend Daisy, he finds it takes awhile for good things to grow and learns ways to pass the time. The watercolor illustrations are gentle and eye pleasing. There is so much to see on each page as Hercules' seed grows into something special for the new school year.  This is a fun story and I think this is a "just right book" for ages 3-7.~

Title: Ready for Pumpkins
Author: Kate Duke
Pub. Date: August 2012, Knopf Books


A tiny little seed is determined to scare everyone around him. But when he says "boo" nobody seems to be scared. The wind tells him it is not quite his time yet and that he needs to have patience.  This is a cute and charming story that would be a fun read-aloud for your fall season celebrating.   The text flows nicely and the illustrations are bold and colorful. It also touches briefly through its pictures the life cycle of a seed, to a plant and then into a pumpkin that little ones will easily understand.

Title: Little Boo
Author: Stephen Wunderli
Pub. Date: August 2014, Henry Holt


Farmer Brown does not like Halloween. So he puts out a bowl of candy with a Do Not Disturb sign, draws his shades and locks the door. But in the Barn, the animals are getting ready for a Halloween party. Somebody taps a note on his door and when he goes to investigate, finds that he ends up becoming part of the party anyway. Just like the other books in this series, the story gives many giggles when the animals personalities come to life in Farmer Brown's barn. I think this is a "just right book" for ages 3-7.~

Title: Click, Clack, Boo
Author: Doreen Cronin
Pub. Date: August 2013, Antheneum Books

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin review

"How many seeds are in a pumpkin?" Mr. Tiffin asks his class as they gather around the big, medium, and small pumpkins on his desk. Robert, the biggest kid, guesses that the largest one has a million seeds; Elinor, sounding like she knows what she's talking about, guesses the medium one has 500 seeds; and Anna, who likes even numbers better than odd ones, guesses that the little one has 22. Charlie, the smallest boy in the class, doesn't have a guess. (goodreads summary)

This will make a wonderful addition to the Fall Harvest parties this upcoming week. It is just the kind of book that is great for the math or science unit!  Mr. Tifflin has three different sized pumpkins and asks his class to guess "how many seeds are in a pumpkin?" Naturally, the kids think the biggest one will have the most. When they open each one and count the seeds, they discover a scientific surprise!

This book will reinforce concepts on size and prediction, as well as estimating and counting in various ways such as by 2's, 5's and 10's.  To add further to the teaching moment, the kids could weigh and measure their pumpkins as well.  Pumpkins also offer a great opportunity for sensory input with their funny shaped exterior, unusual smell and mushy insides. There is even a nice lesson for Charlie, the smallest boy in the class, who learns that it is not so bad being small. The story does read aloud easily with colorful and bold pictures that add to the fun. With the interesting facts included at the back, I managed to learn several things from this educational book that I didn't know.  Hope the kids have some fun this fall experimenting with pumpkins! I think this is a "just right book" for ages 4-7.~

Title: How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin
Author:  Margaret McNamara
Pub. Date: July 2007, Schwartz & Wade Books
genre: picture book
Hardcover, 40 pgs.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Waiting review


Five friends sit happily on a windowsill, waiting for something amazing to happen. The owl is waiting for the moon. The pig is waiting for the rain. The bear is waiting for the wind. The puppy is waiting for the snow. And the rabbit is just looking out the window because he likes to wait! What will happen? Will patience win in the end? Or someday will the friends stop waiting and do something unexpected? (goodreads summary)

Waiting is such a difficult thing to do. Five toys with their own reason for waiting, sit upon a windowsill gazing out into the big and magical world. Except for rabbit, he just likes to look out the window. When that special moment finally arrives, each one cherishes the happiness they feel. This heart-warming story did take me a couple of extra times to read in order to fully appreciate it. It evokes a sense of calmness and serenity which would make for a nice bedtime story. The illustrations are in soft and gentle hues of light blues, pinks, browns and greens adding to the affect.  Even though the text is very short and simple, the pictures are what enhances the story best. This would be a good snuggle together book after a warm bath and just before bed with your little ones. I think this is a "just right book" for ages 3-5.~

Title:  Waiting
Author: Kevin Henkes
Pub. date: September 2015, Greenwillow Books
Genre: picture book
Hardcover, 32 pgs.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Bear Can't Sleep review

Bear can't sleep!

It's winter, and all the animals in the forest are getting ready for the cold weather.  Fox is gathering wood for fires, and Owl  & Squirrel are making jam. But Bear is having trouble falling asleep. He howls & growls & scares the other animals. Patch the Hare isn't scared; he thinks Bear might be hungry & decides to offer him some food. But then Patch learns what the real problem is & he comes up with a clever way to help Bear get some much-needed rest!

The forest animals are hard at work preparing themselves for winter's arrival. They suddenly hear a very tired, grumpy old Bear who is having trouble falling asleep. With his howls and growls, he lets them know he wants to be left alone. All the animals are scared of him except Patch the Rabbit! He thinks Bear is just hungry and bravely takes him some food. When Patch realizes it is not hunger that is keeping him awake, the good friend in him helps save the day by giving him something special that will help him settle in for a long winter nap.

The sweetest character in this story was Patch, who not only shows his bravery but also expresses a genuine concern for Bears well-being. While the other animals were scared of him, Patch was determined there was something he could do to help. When he discovers the main reason Bear cannot fall asleep, Patch's heartfelt gift turned a grumpy bear into a teddy bear.  The story will also teach kids about being kind and thoughtful to others when his persistence pays off in the end.  The large pictures are bold with eye pleasing fall colors making this another cute story to add to the autumn reading collection. I think this is a "just right book" for ages 3-7.~ 

Title: Bear Can't Sleep!
Author: Marni McGee, illustrated by Sean Julian
Pub. date:  September 2015, Tiger Tales
Genre: picture book, fall season
Hardcover, 24 pgs.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Fall is Not Easy review


Fall is a tough time of year for a lot of us. Kids have to go back to school, teachers and football players have to go back to work, and parents have to look for new places to hide holiday presents. But perhaps fall is hardest of all on trees. After all, they have to change their entire appearance every year! (goodreads summary)

One tree is having a difficult time adjusting to the changes that fall can bring. Winter, Spring and Summer are easy but when Fall arrives something is just not right! He tries hard to make his leaves turn brilliant and bright but strange things keep happening instead. No matter how hard he tries, his colors are not what they are suppose to be.

This was a fun rhyming story that offers a wonderful introduction and discussion about the change of seasons for young children. There will be plenty of silly laughter when kids see the leaves are turning crazy colors and shapes.  For example, a tree with polka dots or stripes?  The text is short, simple and easy for a quick read-aloud. Giving kids a blank tree worksheet afterwards would allow them the opportunity to express their own individual creativity with colors and shapes, instead of the usual fall colored trees they tend to make now.  It is definitely a good choice for those fall-themed and seasonal change centers or crafting story hour. It is a cute story with surprise pages and I think this is a "just right book" for ages 4-6.~

Title:  Fall is Not Easy
Author:  Marty Kelley
Pub. date: September 1998, Zino Press
Genre: picture book
Hardcover, 30 pgs.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Cody and the Fountain of Happiness review

For  Cody, many things are beautiful, especially ants who say hello by rubbing feelers. But nothing is as beautiful as the first day of summer vacation.  Cody doesn’t want to waste one minute of it. Meanwhile, teenage brother Wyatt is moping over a girl, Mom is stressed about her new job, Dad is off hauling chairs in his long-distance truck, and even camp has been closed for the summer.  Just when all seems lost, Cody bumps into a neighborhood boy named Spencer who is looking for a runaway cat. With a new friend and a soon-to-be-found cat, Cody is on her way to the fountain of happiness.(goodreads summary)

If only everyday could be like the first day of summer vacation! All the things kids look forward to, either doing or not doing, could make or break a summer. For Cody, she is definitely not wasting one minute of it.  But things don't always go as expected. Her mom is anxious about the start of her new promotion, dad is an over- the-road truck driver, her older brother Wyatt is love-sick over a girl and tracking down a lost cat for her new friend Spencer is harder than she thought.

 Unfortunately, summer vacation may not be turning out what Cody anticipated after all. There are many different scenarios in this short and simple story that will keep young readers interested until the end. Cody's good intentions to cheer up Spencer and help keep his grandmothers cat from running away demonstrates her good nature and heart. Can cats really be hypnotized? It's at least worth a try according to Cody but as she soon learns, things do not always turn out as planned. As for Wyatt and helping to get the girl of his dreams? Well, sometimes it is just best to let things happen naturally.  Even though things backfired on her a few times, Cody's positive attitude and realization that she needs to think before she acts was a wonderful message. I enjoyed the illustrations throughout, which help break up the chapters into smaller sections for a reluctant reader.  I think this would be a "just right book" for ages 8-10.~

Title:  Cody and the Fountain of Happiness
Author: Tricia Springstubb, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler
Pub. date:  April 2015, Candlewick Press
Genre: middle grade, realistic fiction
Hardcover, 151 pgs.

Friday, October 9, 2015

The Bear Ate Your Sandwich review


Delicious tale of a bear, lost in the city, who happens upon an unattended sandwich in the park. The bear’s journey from forest to city and back home again is full of happy accidents, funny encounters, and sensory delights. (goodreads summary)

This cute and funny story about a bear, who falls asleep in the back of a pick up truck after eating some unattended berries and ends up travelling to the city will surely delight many readers.  He finds there are great climbing spots, interesting smells but best of all a sandwich (your sandwich) sitting all alone on the park bench.  Done with acrylic paint and pencil, the vibrant colors make the illustrations stand out. The narrated story is clear and easy to follow and a surprise ending will make kids laugh. I think this a "just right book" for ages 3-7.~

Title:  The Bear Ate Your Sandwich
Author: Julia Sarcone-Roach
Pub Date: January 2015, Knopf Books
Genre: picture book
Hardcover, 32 pgs.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

A Curious Tale of the In-Between review


Pram Bellamy is special--she can talk to ghosts. She doesn't have too many friends amongst the living, but that's all right. She has her books, she has her aunts, and she has her best friend, the ghostly Felix.  Then Pram meets Clarence, a boy from school who has also lost a parent and is looking for answers. Together they arrive at the door of the mysterious Lady Savant, who promises to help. But this spiritualist knows the true nature of Pram's power, and what she has planned is more terrifying than any ghost. (goodreads summary)

Pram lives in a 200 year old colonial with her two adoptive Aunts.  She was told her mother died during childbirth and she has never known her father. She has a special ghost friend named Felix that only she can see and talk with. She meets him down by the pond or finds him in the big tree that sits on the property. Pram has always felt odd about the ghosts and keeps her ability of talking to them a secret, fearing that if someone finds out she will be sent away. Pram has also been thinking about her parents lately and wonders if her father knows about her existence.  Her Aunts are concerned that she is too old for imaginary friends and decides it would be best for her to be among other children her own age by attending school.  Her first day she meets a quiet boy named Clarence, who has suffered a loss and seeking answers to an untimely death to someone very close to him. As the two become better friends, she decides to share her secret that she can communicate with ghosts. He leads Pram to a spiritualist named Lady Savant in the hopes that she will help them find the closure they both are searching for. Lady Savant eagerly agrees to help but is already aware of Prams true powers and strength. Unfortunately, unknowingly to Clarence and Pram, she has a different plan of her own.

Spooky stories are always a favorite of mine. I found myself not wanting to put this book down, so I read it in two nights! The storyline was captivating, hooking me right in after the first chapter. The writing style is quite graceful and flowing, just like a ghost would be.  Felix was a good character with his quick wit and personality. He was very protective of Pram and I had the sense that he really cared for her. After Pram met Clarence, she finally knew what it felt like to have a real person as a friend.  I felt saddened at times for Felix because I could see him sitting in his tree, watching her go off with her new friend and realizing he could not give her what Clarence could.  There is certainly a difference between the real world and the spirit world.  The story does, however, take a sudden dark twist when Lady Savant enters. I had a hard time visualizing Pram and Clarence as eleven years old because of the dark theme.  I almost wished they had been sixteen or older on a few occasions, although they both were very mature, strong and brave for their depicted age. I found myself going "oh no" more than once as certain parts became heart pounding and scary.  I couldn't wait to turn the page to see what happened only to go "oh no" again. Lady Savant was so eerie and the story got creepier as to why she wanted Pram for her own devious plot and what she was going to do to get her own powers stronger. Pram did help unfold Lady Savants story so I was happy for an explanation. The ending wrapped things up nicely leaving me wondering if more books will follow about Pram's unique ability and see where it will take her. It was fast paced and I never found myself losing interest.   There is deep subject matter relating to depression, suicide, kidnapping, grief, death and death of children that might not sit well with a younger or sensitive audience. A mature middle school reader would be best for this type of story. On the plus side, it does offer love, a strong sense of family, true friendship, courage, the willpower to live and talented writing. I think this is a "just right book" for ages 11 (mature though) & up.~

Title: A Curious Tale of the In-Between
Author: Lauren DeStefano
Pub. Date: September 2015, Bloomsbury
Genre: middle grade, ghost story
Hardcover, 226 pgs.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Everyone Loves Bacon review

Egg loves Bacon.  Lettuce loves Bacon.  Waffle loves Bacon.
Bacon is sizzling with popularity.
And pretty much everyone thinks he is the best.

That is-until Bacon's fame goes to his head. He's so busy soaking up the attention, that he soon forgets the important things in life, like friendship and family. How will it all pan out for our dashing, delicious hero? (goodreads summary)

In this cute and very funny story, Bacon is so popular among the other foods that it goes straight to his head. Unfortunately, he seems to have forgotten his friends along the way as he enjoys his sudden celebrity status. As we all know, this is something that can happen living in the popular world.  This book would make a great read-aloud since the text is short and flows easily, giving kids many opportunities for a giggle. Everyone could use a smile and a little silliness during their busy days and this is just what Bacon's story will do. It definitely will make you laugh out loud. The storyline also offers a wonderful teaching moment about popularity and its impact. I enjoyed the illustrations as they gave me a sense of the Old Diner feel and were very bold with color making the pages pop.  In the end, there is a surprise twist that some may or may not see coming.

We were in a gift store browsing a while back and never realized the popularity of bacon until that day. We saw bacon band aids, bacon puzzles, bacon playing cards, bacon bandannas, bacon air fresheners and bacon lip balm. We got a good chuckle about it because my son is a huge bacon lover! If he was little again, this would have been the perfect book to add to his reading collection.  I think this is a "just right book" for ages 3-7.~

Title:  Everyone Loves Bacon
Author: Kelly Dipucchio, Illustrated by Eric Wright
Pub. date: September 2015, Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Genre: picture book
Hardcover, 40 pgs.

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Wonderful Things You Will Be review


From brave and bold to creative and clever, the rhythmic rhyme expresses all the loving things that parents think of when they look at their children. With beautiful and sometimes humorous illustrations, this is a book grown-ups will love reading over and over to kids—both young and old. (goodreads summary)

This wonderful picture book will touch the heart of any parent.  By imagining the many possibilities children could someday become, our hopes and dreams are beautifully expressed by the gentle words and soft illustrations. Sweet and simple, it blends nicely together with the rhyming and poetic text for reading aloud. The calm and soothing illustrations are perfect for a bedtime story. This book would make a great baby shower gift for the new parent or birthday present for a one year old.  It is definitely a book to cherish for years to come as your child grows.

Do we wish for our children to be kind, creative, caring or bold?  It will raise a few questions while also leaving us to wonder. But the most important message conveyed is that whoever or whatever they may become, your child will forever have your love. After reading this book, it made me think about my own two children and I realized they are growing into everything I could have ever wished they would be.  I think this is a "just right book" for ages 0 and up.~

Title:  The Wonderful Things You Will Be
Author: Emily Winfield Martin
Pub. date: August 2015, Random House
Genre: picture book
Hardcover, 36 pgs.