Saturday, October 31, 2009

Really Excellent YA Literature

While I must admit to having torn through the Twilight series at break-neck speed (although book #2 was slower and nearly a deal-breaker), it is not the best literature for young adults (or really anyone - it's like a large slice of chocolate cake). It's surely a good, suspenseful and angst-filled story, and Meyer knows how to draw out the tale, but let's face it—Bella is not a fabulous female role-model for young women. Rather, I want my daughter to read A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly when she's old enough.

Donnelly's story of 16-year old Mattie Gokey is set in 1906, and follows her from her family farm, to a summer get-away hotel resort (as an employee), and through her struggle to stay in school and get educated, while she struggles against the pull of her family and friends who want her to get married and have babies. She weighs her full-ride scholarship to Barnard College and her love for writing against for responsibility to her father and younger siblings.

The book deals with the aftermath of the loss of Mattie's mom to breast cancer, racism, feminism, poverty, elitism, and murder (among other plot lines) and Donnelly weaves a rich story full of beautiful writing and sharp observations. Mattie is an admirably strong, real young woman—a beautiful character, and this book is a marvelous example of the great Young Adult literature available. Historical fiction at its best! I highly recommend this one.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Book Bag: October

This month Erik was very insistent on choosing board books out of the bins in the Kids' section. "I'm gonna choose books for ME, my OWN self," he said, and proceeded to select piles and piles. I said that we needed to pare down our collection a bit... so I helped him narrow down his pile. Here's what he picked:

  1. Jacob Lawrence In The City by Susan Goldman Rubin ****Great rhythm to the story and amazing illustrations.
  2. Old Mother Hubbard by Jane Cabrera
  3. Boats by Byron Barton
  4. Sheila Rae's Peppermint Stick by Kevin Henkes ****Henkes never fails to enchant both the kids (and me!)
  5. 1 is One by Tasha Tudor****LOVE this counting book with complex, wonderful vocabulary!
  6. Chicka Chicka ABC by Bill Martin Jr.
  7. Duck & Goose 123 by Tad Hills
  8. Shades of Black: A Celebration of our Children by Sandra L. Pinkney****Great vocabulary, beautiful tribute to all the colors kids may be.
  9. I Spy Little Numbers by Jean Marzollo and Walter Wick
  10. Sun by Natalie Jane Prior
  11. Fit-It Duck by Jez Alborough****Silly, goofy, messy fun!
And, for her part, Madeline has shown a real interest in Math, so the rest of our books are a mix of early mathematics, Halloween/Fall stories, and myths, legends & fairy tales. Faves are noted as usual****:
  1. I'm your bus / Marilyn Singer ****Both kids LOVE this one. Fun, sweet, happy book.
  2. Halloween night / by Marjorie Dennis Murray
  3. Humpty Dumpty climbs again / Dave Horowitz****Excellent version of Humpty Dumpty. Clever tale of perseverance.
  4. My monster mama loves me so / Laura Leuck ****Fave!
  5. Pumpkin circle : the story of a garden / story by George Levenson****This, and the DVD of same, were fascinating to the kids this year since we grew pumpkins too.
  6. Bootsie Barker bites / by Barbara Bottner ****Mixed reviews on this recommendation from my sister-in-law. I loved the book, and think it teaches a great lesson (including the bratty Bootsie's parents giving in to a tantrum - that's why she's a brat!). My kids love it too. However... other friends and family who've read this to the kids thought it was horrible. I think it's a great book to use to teach some important lessons. And, kids can be mean. The heroine of "Bootsie" stands up for herself without becoming a bully herself...
  7. First picture math / illustrated by Jo Litchfield****Madeline LOVES, and is really good at, this one!
  8. Nifty thrifty math crafts / Michele C. Hollow
  9. Tyrannosaurus math / by Michelle Markel
  10. Money math with Sebastian pig and friends : at the farmer's market / written by Jill Anderson****Fun, and relevant, since we go to the Farmer's Market!
  11. The beautiful stories of life : six Greek myths, retold / Cynthia Rylant
  12. Children of native America today / Arlene Hirschfelder and Yvonne Wakim Dennis
  13. Patchwork style : 35 simple projects for a cozy & colorful life / Suzuko Koseki
  14. George and the dragon / text based on the script written by Sheila Dinsmore
  15. Goldilocks / [retold and illustrated by] Ruth Sanderson****A beautiful version of Goldilocks, where Goldy helps clean up and repair the damage she's done, and gives the bears her blueberries so they can all end up sharing muffins and tea! Includes a blueberry muffin recipe.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Mama's A Mama...

No matter how hairy! Laura Leuck's My Monster Mama Loves Me So shows a hairy, green three-eyed (but sweet) monster Mama caring for her monster son, and illustrates all the ways that she loves him.

The rhyming text is fun and lively, and we especially like the "... takes me to the swamp to swim," part. Our kids are also fans of the fact that "the scary things" that scare the monsters are children! And, having the monsters roast hot dogs in front of a roaring fire, reading books and singing songs really makes them seem familiar and not at all scary.

Mark Buehner's illustrations really make the book shine. This one's a keeper—fun for Halloween, or really, any time of year.

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