Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Classic — New to Me

One of the many great things about reading with, and to, my kids is discovering books that I've not yet read myself. And, one such classic is A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. We finished the first chapter last night; then today after school, and later this evening, we finished the remaining eighteen chapters. About six chapters at a sitting. Madeline adored it, Erik seems to have sort-of followed it (in the background playing with LEGOs), and the line "But the saddest news was that Sara's dear papa was dead," brought both of them up short. The mention of such an unfathomable thing certainly got their attention, but also the fact that we refer to their dad as "Papa," surely made it worse. There were many questions, and many answers, and then the story continued.

We compared Livinia to Nellie Olsen from the Little House series, and we all (often) shook our fists at Miss Minchin's cruelty, and were impressed by Sara's spirit and imagination. Madeline giggled at my exasperation at the missed connections nearing the end of the book, but all along they were quietly impressed by Sara's resolve. I was too. This, I believe, will be a book that we re-visit. There really are so many wonderful lessons in this story, and I'm thankful that the Magic brought it to me by way of my little readers. And, in this case, the "Magic" is my fabulous sister-in-law, Shannon.

Monday, January 2, 2012

YA: Magic and Science Fiction Faves

Tamora Pierce's Sandry's Book, from the Circle of Magic series was a compelling, adventurous and quick read, with strong and interesting female characters, and I'm looking forward to the other three books. Sandry and three other kids (who've had a pretty rough year) are brought to Winding Circle Temple by Niko, a senior mage, to learn their crafts and refine/control their natural magical abilities. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could probably read this book to Madeline already (she's almost seven), since there really wasn't anything too adult-themed in it, and I think she'd like the descriptions of the mages' lessons and the different magical powers.

Watching the characters' friendships grow and seeing them let go of their cultural and class prejudice is beautiful too. I look forward to Tris's Book, Daja's Book and Briar's Book.

The second YA book that I recently finished is the first in the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld. Set far in the future, in a post-apocalyptic world, it follows Tally as she waits to become a "Pretty" at 16. In her world, people undergo extensive reconstructive surgery when they turn 16, and until they turn, they live across the river from Pretty Town, isolated from the Pretties and raised in dormitories with other "Uglies" waiting to turn.

Pretty Town is divided into segments too, with the Party Towers in the city where the young New Pretties live, then suburbia where Middle and Late Pretties live with their families, raising their kids (or Littlies) until they turn 12 and are taken away as Uglies to live in the dorms for four years. Along the way, Tally loses a best friend to Pretty Town, then meets Shay, a girl who doesn't want to get the surgery to be a Pretty, and Tally's whole world changes... her adventures that follow are fast-paced, and a quick, fun YA read with a little mild romance between two of the 16+ characters at the end of the book. I found this book to be as compelling as The Hunger Games, without the darker story-line and gladiator/survivor themes. I'd say these books are good for kids 10 and up. The next three books in the series are:  Pretties, Specials, and Extras.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012 Book Bag: January

James Banning was the first African-American pilot to fly across the United States. Did you know that? I didn't, but this fantastic picture book (The Hallelujah Flight by Phil Bildner) tells his story beautifully, and is a great conversation starter about equality and the history of segregation and freedom in our country. My 6-year old loved the story, and especially enjoyed the lively illustrations by John Holyfield. 

The second book we're loving right now is Stuck by Oliver Jeffers. Great illustrations, and a silly story that had the kids cracking up over Floyd's ridiculous exploits to get his kite un-stuck from his tree... the kids can't help but smile, giggle and chuckle at this one. 


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