Book Review: The Girl Who Drank the Moon

screen-shot-2017-02-06-at-8-54-49-pmThis year’s Newbery award winner is Kelly Barnhill’s The Girl Who Drank the Moon. Larrabee and I just finished reading it aloud.

The Newbery Medal is awarded by the Association for Library Service to Children for the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. Recent winners include other favorites of mine, such as The Crossover and The One and Only Ivan.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon is an unusual book with a lyrical, fairytale quality. Larrabee and I loved the characters, especially Fyrian, the Perfectly Tiny Dragon who thinks he’s Simply Enormous, and Xan, the fearsome Witch in the forest who’s actually kind. We were also intrigued by the magic.

I recommend reading this book aloud. It’s a long, complex story with several threads that all come together at the end, and its mysteries are revealed slowly. I think Larrabee might have had trouble following the story if he’d tried reading it to himself. It would make a better independent read for grades 5 and up.

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Book Review: Bomb

screen-shot-2017-02-01-at-11-36-57-amI’ll confess that I usually prefer fiction to non-fiction. But I’m willing to make an exception for Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin. It’s a history of the atomic bomb told with thriller pacing.

Starting with the discovery of nuclear fission in 1938, the book follows three interrelated stories: the American efforts to build a bomb, the Soviet spies’ efforts to steal the bomb design, and the Allies’ efforts to prevent Germany from developing the bomb. Sheinkin does an amazing job of weaving in quotations from primary sources to create an informative and readable narrative.

Blaine enjoyed this book too. More than once, I overheard him telling his dad about something he learned from it. His concise review: Bomb is bomb.

Book Review: The Strange Case of Origami Yoda

screen-shot-2017-02-01-at-11-01-55-amWhen Larrabee came home from the library last week with a copy of Tom Angleberger‘s The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, it brought back memories of a time when my purse was full of folded paper Star Wars characters. When Blaine and his classmates discovered this series four years ago, there were only three books. Now there are six (all with great titles, including my favorite-The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee).

After hearing Larrabee chuckling in the backseat while he read the first book, I had to read it too.

Tommy starts with an important question: Is Origami Yoda real? In other words, even though it’s just a paper finger puppet worn by the weirdest kid in the sixth grade, can he trust its advice? The book consists of the investigative case file that he’s put together by asking his classmates about their interactions with Origami Yoda.

Like the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, this book is aimed at a middle school audience but is easy enough for younger kids to read. It’s sweet and funny, though, and Larrabee didn’t seem to mind reading about middle school dances. And the Cheeto Hog and Soapy the Monkey have universal appeal.

The book includes instructions for folding your own Origami Yoda. I’m sure I’ll soon have one or two in my purse, in case you need any advice.

Read this book you must. Laugh you will.

Book Review: Lou Lou & Pea and the Mural Mystery

screen-shot-2017-01-12-at-4-00-26-pmLou Lou and Pea and the Mural Mystery by Jill Diamond is an intriguing and light-hearted mystery for younger readers.

Lou Lou Bombay and Peacock Pearl are 5th graders and best friends. Lou Lou lives in a house shaped like a ship and grows prize-worthy camellias. Pea loves art and has a flair for fashion.

When bad things start happening in their neighborhood, they want to help. Then, they notice that new images are appearing in the murals of El Corazón. Oddly, the new images all relate to the recent crimes. They have a mystery to solve! A cryptic riddle points the way for them to find the culprit just in time for the Día de Los Muertos procession.

In a recent interview, Jill Diamond reveals that the fictional  El Corazón neighborhood was inspired by her own neighborhood, San Francisco’s Mission District.

 

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Ofrenda with 2nd graders’ skeleton dolls at Gateway School

I’m planning to donate a copy of this book to Larrabee’s 2nd grade classroom. Larrabee is reading it now, and I think his classmates would enjoy it too. They made skeleton dolls this fall as part of their study of Día de Los Muertos.

Good news: Jill Diamond is already planning a second adventure for Lou Lou and Pea!

Christmas (Book) Traditions

img_5379Deck the halls with boughs of…  Wait, the Christmas books are in this box? So much for decorating. It’s time to read!

Larrabee started with our new addition from last year:  Olivia Helps with Christmas by Ian Falconer. Then, O Little Town of Bethlehem by Ron Berry, caught his attention with its music and lights. And he read Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree by Robert E. Barry out loud to me. I’ve been reading that one at Christmas time as long as I can remember.

We’ll save The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore for Mark to read aloud on Christmas Eve. That’s a tradition.

My personal favorite of all the books in the box is How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss. I can practically recite it from memory. No Christmas would be complete for me without chimbleys, Whos’ mouses, and roast beast. The Grinch just puts me in the Christmas spirit. Maybe I’ll watch the cartoon version before I finish decorating… Now that’s a wonderful, awful idea.

Book Review: The Knights’ Tales

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Sir Larrabee on his third birthday

I recommend Gerald Morris’ The Knights’ Tales series to any kid who ever donned chain mail or brandished a sword.

The books in this series are The Adventures of Sir Lancelot the Great, The Adventures of Sir Givret the ShortThe Adventures of Sir Gawain the True, and The Adventures of Sir Balin the Ill-Fated. All four are retellings of Arthurian legends for young readers.

Both of my boys read these books to themselves, but they would also be great for reading together. They’re a quick read and they’ll make you laugh out loud.

And Gerald Morris also has a series of books for older kids called The Squire’s Tales. We haven’t read them yet, but we’d love to hear from you if you have.

Boys of Summer

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Photo credit: Douglas P. Mitchell

In honor of the end of the baseball season, I thought I’d pass along Blaine and Larrabee’s favorite baseball books of the past summer.

Blaine’s Pick:  The Closer: Young Readers Edition by Mariano Rivera with Wayne Coffey and Sue Corbett.

You don’t have to be a Yankees fan to enjoy pitcher Mariano Rivera’s autobiography. From his childhood in Panama to his long Major League career, Rivera’s story is interesting and inspiring. Blaine particularly liked his descriptions of life in the Yankees clubhouse.

By the way, I do not know how the Young Readers Edition differs from the original. We just happened to find this one in the library.

Larrabee’s Pick: Ted & Me by Dan Gutman.

Ted & Me is the 11th book in the 12-book Baseball Card Adventures series about a boy named Joe Stoshack who can travel through time using baseball cards.

In this adventure, the FBI gives Joe a Ted Williams card from 1941 and asks him to warn President Roosevelt about the attack on Pearl Harbor. Larrabee likes history and baseball, so this book was right up his alley. He especially liked the (true) Ted Williams tips about hitting and fly fishing and has quoted them often.