“When hunger gnaws inside my belly, I tell myself that a future Pioneer has to repress cravings for such unimportant matters as food. Communism is just over the horizon; soon there will be plenty of food for everyone…I wonder what it’s like in the capitalist countries. I wouldn’t be surprised if children there had never even tasted a carrot.”
More than anything, 10-year-old Sasha Zaichik wants to be a member of the Young Soviet Pioneers in Breaking Stalin’s Nose, by Eugene Yelchin. Sasha can hardly wait for tomorrow’s Pioneer rally, when all of his dreams will be realized. However, as the big day gets close, things go terribly wrong for Sasha. First, his stalwart father is taken away by the State Security in the middle of the night. As Sasha’s mother had died under mysterious circumstances some time before, this leaves Sasha frighteningly alone. He is no longer welcome in the komunalka that he shares with 48 other citizens, so he is put out into deserted and icy streets in the middle of the night.
Metro City’s very own superhero Captain Amazing is getting too old for his job, so he’s going to need some backup. Sidekicks is the journey of some die-hard hero wannabes who wish to join the captain for one very simple reason: They are his pets, and he hasn’t been paying them any attention lately.
“I think there is a destiny laid on me that I am not to know anything interesting, go anywhere interesting, or do anything interesting.”
In The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander, Taran feels that nothing exciting happens in his life and that nothing ever will. And yet, Taran longs to be a hero, like his idol Prince Gwydion, the famed warrior who fights in the name of the High King of Prydain. Taran lives on a farm called Caer Dallben, named after the ancient enchanter who dwells there. Dallben, between reading from his mysterious tome, The Book of Three, and giving Taran wise but confusing advice, spends most of his time meditating--an endeavor that he often undertakes lying down with his eyes closed while snoring. The only other person on the farm is Coll, who instructs Taran in making horseshoes, despite there not being any horses.
Princess Celie’s favorite day of the week is Tuesday because that’s the day Castle Glower usually grows a new room or two, or a turret, or passage. Castle Glower’s favorite person is Princess Celie, the only one who has ever tried to explore and map the ever-changing structure. Castle Glower is not shy about making its opinion known. When the Castle decides Prince Rolf should be the King’s Heir, he awakes one day to discover his bedroom has been moved next to the throne room. Unwelcome guests find their quarters growing smaller and shabbier, while favored residents are housed in spacious comfort in Tuesdays at the Castle, by Jessica Day George.
When the King and Queen disappear--ambushed and presumed dead--visitors from foreign lands arrive suddenly to advise Celie, Rolf, and their sister, Lilah, during the time of transition. But the Castle seems to know that something isn’t right and the plotters underestimate the Castle’s abilities. They also underestimate the courage and intelligence of the Royal children. The Castle creates a turret, stocked with useful items, that appears when Celie and her siblings need it. It provides a passage to a hidden room where the children can overhear the council’s scheming--complete with a magic cloak that muffles sound so the children will not themselves be overheard. Celie’s maps and her relationship with the Castle are the keys to saving the kingdom, the castle’s inhabitants, and the castle itself.
The Napping House, by Audrey Wood, is full of beautiful illustrations, and there is wonderful repetition in the wording of the book. The sequencing is great for children because it creates a sense of anticipation and allows them to participate in reading the book. The story is about a grandma who has everyone in the house gently pile on top of her while she is asleep.The pile includes her grandson, the dog, the cat, the mouse and the mouse's flea.The book is charming as well as being calming and would be a great bedtime story for a child who needs help settling down.
In his book Lawn Boy, Gary Paulsen has done a wonderful job of capturing an everyday job for a tween boy--like mowing the lawn--and expanding it into a hilarious summer experience.
Lawn Boy is a great book for boys, but I think girls will enjoy it, too. Paulsen elaborates on experiences most all teens can relate to--like not having any money and being bored during summer vacation. They’re too young to drive but not that interested in toys, unless you consider video games toys. And if they want to get new video games to play, they have to come up with the funds to buy them.