It's almost impossible to find a CD that all the kids in our family car - ages 11, 9, 6, and 4 - will listen to. I know, however, that the kids will always be entranced by one of They Might Be Giants' (TMBG) kids CDs. TMBG provides a great alternative for kids who are searching for something to listen to besides Radio Disney, Kidz Bop, and Hannah Montanna. Their album "Here Come the ABCs" may sound like it's only geared toward the pre-school set, but the songs are lyrically sophisticated and really catchy.
One of our favorite songs, "E Eats Everything" is a hilarious trip through the alphabet via letters with various food issues. "A" hardly has an appetite, "D" is disinterested in anything you've got, "F" is far too fussy and only eats with fancy wine, and H burns his food horribly. The song goes through the alphabet until we get to the letter z, where there's a big surprise. A song like this works on so many different levels - the older kids appreciate the humor of poor "I" always doomed to inhale H's smoke, while the younger ones are thrilled to repeat the refrain "E eats Everything." Other favorite songs are "Alphabet of Nations," "Clap Your Hands," and "Flying V." Check it out today!
Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver opens during one particularly brutal winter, when the wolves in Mercy Falls, Minnesota are starving. Desperate to eat, they pull an eleven-year-old girl off of her tire swing in her back yard. As they begin to pull at her clothes, she catches the beautiful, golden eyes of one of the wolves and they both connect in an inexplicable way. The golden-eyed wolf saves her life, defending her from the pack.
Arthur Penhaligon, star of Garth Nix's Mister Monday, thinks he's a normal 7th grader who has enough problems to deal with, like starting a brand new school and controlling his asthma. After the first day of school, though, his life gets a lot weirder. During a serious asthma attack, while he's gasping for breath on the ground, he sees a strange man in a wheelchair appear in blinding light with an attendant. He thrusts a "blade" into Arthur's hands and mutters some strange things about a Will, the Key, and suitable Heir. Although it makes no sense to him at the time, Arthur has just been given an instrument of power called the Key and named the Heir to the Will by Mister Monday. Arthur's life will never be the same.
Awwoooooooo! Can you hear the howling? The night is dark, but there's enough of a moon to see the outline of shaggy beasts on the hillside. Would you want to be outside, alone, with a pack of wolves drawing near? My guess is no. So do the next best thing, and pick up one of the books on our new book list, Howling Good Reads. There are wolves of all types here - noble and courageous; fierce and adventurous; cunning and wily. Meet wolf pups abandoned by their packs and humans adopted by other packs. There are even wolves who live in the walls of an old house. Browse Howling Good Reads today.
I don't care if you are a kid, teen or adult - it feels great to be able to do some impressive tricks for your family and friends at the next backyard barbecue, like blowing a bubble within a bubble or slicing an unpeeled banana. If you want to move beyond mere parlor tricks, you can learn how to identify clouds, ride a boogie board or fold fortune cookies thanks to the super-easy directions in Show Off: How to Do Absolutely Everything One Step at a Time, by Sarah Hines Stephens and Bethany Mann.
What makes "Show Off" a fantastic book are the step-by-step picture directions. Since I am a graphic learner, this makes it so much easier for me than trying to decipher a page of text describing how to fold a ninja star. The ingredient lists tend to be very slight, which is a bonus for parents. If you want to learn more about an activity, several of them have longer descriptions in the back under "tell me more." The 224 activities are grouped under the categories of "amaze," "investigate," "create," "explore," "cook," and "move." Most of these are easy to do by yourself if you're at least 10 years old, while others will require adult help.
This is Week 7 of a 12-Week series of blog posts reviewing new young adult books. Check back each Monday for a new review.
Fever Crumb, heroine of Philip Reeve’s Fever Crumb, is a 14-year-old girl with an unusual appearance. First of all, she’s bald. Second, she has two differently-colored eyes – one blue, the other brown. And third, she’s absolutely beautiful. But she doesn’t know that. She has been raised by Dr. Crumb and the Order of Engineers since she was a baby, and they’re not in the habit of telling her that she’s beautiful. Her upbringing has been rather dry and very self-composed, with both emotion and beauty being looked down upon.
First Light by Rebecca Stead is a compelling story told by two different narrators. First there is Peter, the only child of two talented scientist parents. His father, a glaciologist, receives a grant to travel to Greenland and study global warming. He takes along Peter and Peter's mother, a molecular biologist, who is writing a book about mitochondrial DNA. Peter, like any normal 7th grader, is excited to leave behind New York City for 6 weeks, but he's worried about his increasingly frequent headaches. Is he going to end up like his mother, whose headaches cause her to simply "check out" for days at a time?
Second, there is Thea, a 14-year-old girl who lives in Gracehope, a community entirely hidden under Greenland's ice. Thea's ancestors fled here a long time ago to escape persecution. Thea has never seen the sun. Her people's population has expanded to the point where resources must be severely rationed and births are limited. Thea feels that her people were meant to return to the surface, but her grandmother, who leads Gracehope, is set against expansion.
Peter and Thea's tales alternate as the plot's tension increases, and they eventually come together in this exciting story that mixes adventure with science and fantasy. Both characters are strong and independent thinkers, trying to make the best decisions with their limited knowledge. The adults in this novel seem strangely paralyzed by the past in many respects, unlike Peter and Thea, who are constantly looking forward to and advocating for the future.
You can read an excerpt from the book here and explore the world of First Light in its own Web site. A similar read is The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau. The library owns both the book and audiobook, which our family enjoyed listening to. Recommended for ages 10-14.
by Jacob Puckett, an 11 year-old guest reviewer
I have never spoken one single word. I am almost eleven years old." (Excerpt from Chapter 1)
Finnikin of the Rock, by Melina Marchetta, is a book for readers who don’t mind losing themselves. The land of Skuldenore is not always a pleasant place to be lost—in fact, it is often heartbreakingly dark. But I didn’t mind being lost within it, as long as I was with Finnikin.
Skuldenore is comprised of several countries, such as Osteria, Charyn, and Yutlind. Each country has its own interesting characterization, and there is much that goes into the world-building in this book, which makes it so successful. The country we care most about is Lumatere, Finnikin’s homeland.
Ten years ago, a power-greedy cousin infiltrated Lumatere’s royal castle, slaughtering the king, queen, and princesses. This violence set off another chain of violent events, which ended with the entire country being cursed and sealed off from the rest of the world. Those events are called “the five days of the unspeakable.” The people who escaped during that time roam the other countries, exiled, ignored, and mostly despised. They die from fever, starvation, and at the hands of other countries’ kings. It is not a good time to be Lumateren.