Archive for the ‘age 8-12’ Category

Write a Review Wednesday: Milo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze

Welcome to another Write a Review Wednesday, a meme started by Tara Lazar as a way to show support to authors of kids literature. Last week we reviewed DK Readers: Star Wars series. This week we go a little older, reviewing Simon and Schuster‘s Milo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze (age 9-13), written and illustrated by Alan Silbergerg. I have to thank Katie at Simon and Schuster Canada for my review copy.

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MIlo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze deals with a 13-year-old boy’s struggle to come to terms with the loss of his mother. Ever since Milo Cruikshank’s mother died nothing has gone right. Now, instead of the kitchen being full of music, his whole house has been filled with Fog. Nothing’s the same. Not his Dad. Not his sister. And definitely not him. In love with the girl he sneezed on the first day of school and best pals with Marshall, the “One Eyed Jack” of friends, Milo copes with being the new kid (again) as he struggles to survive a school year that is filled with reminders of what his life “used to be.” [synopsis from Simon and Schuster Canada]

Although life as a teenager is in my distant past, the awkward moments, feelings of trying to fit in and school crushes are memories that still float around in my head, more so now that my oldest gets closer to that preteen age. Milo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze does a great job illustrating these awkward moments, probably more so for me since I was one of those awkward kids growing up. The issue of Milo’s mother’s death is subtle at the beginning of the story, only alluded to. At first I thought it was just a bit of background information. As the story progresses, as Milo develops stronger friendship ties and becomes more comfortable with himself, he reveals to us (and his friends) how his mother’s death really has impacted him. He develops enough courage to try to bring her back into his life, his family’s life, even though he fears his dad’s reaction.

Throughout the pages Alan Silverberg adds cartoon-like illustrations; illustrations that Milo makes to express how he feels, thoughts going through his head, or moments witnessed. They remind me a lot like doodles you would do in the margins of your school book. The images help to illustrate a thought, like Milo explaining how his dad is different in front of people, wearing his Dad costume. They also add a slice of humour to the story and give you a sense that you’re reading Milo’s personal thoughts, like a diary.

Milo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze will have you nodding your head in understanding, laughing and cringing at those awkward teen moments and crying as Milo opens his heart to mourn and love his mother. Even with the main character being a boy, pre-teen girls can still relate to Milo’s feelings and experiences; I don’t think they’re boy specific. Milo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze is a great story about friendship, fitting in and coming to terms with your inner self. Take a peek at the book trailer below:

To add a copy of Milo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze to your personal collection or to give as a gift to a preteen you know (or even a school classroom), visit your local bookstore or Simon and Schuster Canada. For other great book recommendations for kids, read through the past Write a Review Wednesday posts. What books are you enjoying with your kids?

Write a Review Wednesday: Star Wars DK Readers

Welcome to another Write a Review Wednesday, a meme started by Tara Lazar as a way to show support to authors of kids literature. Last week we reviewed Quiet Bunny’s Many Colors. This week we’re participating in DK Canada‘s May the 4th be with You event, supporting reading in Canada thanks to Star Wars. We reviewed Star Wars The Clone Wars: Pirates…and Worse! (age 5-7), part of the DK Readers series. I have to thank Chris at DK Canada for my review copy.

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Get eye-to-eye with the bad guys including Nuvo Vindi and the Separatist leaders, buddy up with jedi and droids as well as extraordinary creatures like the Gutkurrs and Blurrgs, and meet the terrifying pirates Hondo Ohnaka and Turk Falso in Star Wars: The Clone Wars Reader: Pirates…and Worse!!

My 6-year old son is a beginning reader. He loves books and loves hearing stories read to him, but finding a story that interests him enough to practice reading on his own can be a bit of a challenge. There are a lot of leveled reading books out there but he doesn’t have much interest in reading about bunnies or Dora or digging in the dirt so when I was introduced to the DK Readers Star Wars series, I thought these would be ideal for my son. And I was right. He loved the four books we were sent: Watch Out for Jabba the Hutt and Pirates…And Worse! (both level 1); Stand Aside – Bounty Hunters and Boba Fett: Jedi Hunter (both level 2).

It’s amazing just how different leveled readers are from publisher to publisher. Level 1 in the DK Readers series is designed for those beginning to read. Unlike other beginning readers that have 1 sentence on a page, the DK Readers actually consisted of two or three sentences which I preferred as a parent. Most of the vocabulary is understandable but I did have to help my son with a few words. Many of the words are repeated in the story, helping to reinforce vocabulary. The hardest words I found were character names; some my son knew, others we guessed. My son actually enjoyed reading these books and I even found him reading one of the level 1 books to both his dad and little sister; that’s a good sign.

The level 2 books we looked at not only had more sentences per page but the sentences themselves were a little more complex in grammar: He blows things up, and, above all else, he enjoys a good fight. There were also call-outs throughout the story, providing tidbits of Star Wars info; my son loved these elements. In both the level 1 and 2 books we reviewed, my son loved that the topics were on the bad guys; reading about bounty hunters and pirates versus the good guys. The illustrations used are the same as in the animated series, The Clone Wars, drawing a closer connection to the series my son is already familiar with . The only problem I have with this is that many of the illustrations are very dark but this didn’t seem to be an issue with my son.

If you have a child in your family that’s into Star Wars, you’ll love the May the 4th be with You contest DK Canada is running this month. Simply submit a photo of your chid or family reading a Star Wars book and you could win a complete DK Star Wars collection and a Canadian school or library of their choice will receive a complete DK READERS Star Wars set. Plus, for every photo submitted, DK Publishing will donate a “toonie” to Frontier College, Canada’s original literacy organization. For more information visit their site: cn.dk.com/starwars

If you have a Lego Star Wars fan in your home, you might be interested in the review I wrote over at Best Tools for Schools blog: Lego Star Wars: A Visual Dictionary also from DK Canada.

To add a copy of DK Readers: Star War Series to your own personal library, visit your nearest bookstore or DK Canada. For other great books for kids, read through the past Write a Review Wednesday posts. What books are you enjoying with your kids?

Write a Review Wednesday: Banjo of Destiny

Welcome to another Write a Review Wednesday, a meme started by Tara Lazar as a way to show support to authors of kids literature. Last week we reviewed Me and Rolly Maloo. This week I look at Groundwood Books’ Banjo of Destiny (age 10-12), written by Cary Fagan. I have to thank Trisha at Groundwood Books for my review copy.

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Jeremiah Birnbaum is stinking rich. He lives in a house with nine bathrooms, a games room, an exercise room, an indoor pool, a hot tub, a movie theater, a bowling alley and a tennis court. His parents, a former hotdog vendor and window cleaner who made it big in dental floss, make sure Jeremiah goes to the very best private school, and that he takes lessons in all the things he will need to know how to do as an accomplished and impressive young man. Etiquette lessons, ballroom dancing, watercolor painting. And, of course, classical piano.

Jeremiah complies, because he wants to please his parents. But one day, by chance, he hears the captivating strains of a different kind of music — the strums, plucks and rhythms of a banjo. It’s music that stirs something in Jeremiah’s dutiful little soul, and he is suddenly obsessed. And when his parents forbid him to play one, he decides to learn anyway — even if he has to make the instrument himself.

I’ll admit, I was personally drawn to Banjo of Destiny because of my love of the ukulele. I realize they’re not the same instrument but they are viewed in the same way: strange, uncommon, lowbrow. But like Jeremiah, I was drawn to its sound.

You may think a book about a boy playing the banjo wouldn’t be that appealing to kids, but Banjo of Destiny is more than that. It deals with growing-up and finding your own voice. Jeremiah has let his parents have control over all his life: where he goes to school, what he wears, the classes he takes, even the music he listens too. But when the sound of the banjo strikes a chord with him (no pun intended), he doesn’t let his parents’ desires get in the way.

When his parents won’t let him learn the banjo, he decides to do it in secret, even going as far as building one in shop class to ensure he doesn’t break his parents’ rule about spending any money on the instrument. Jeremiah’s best friend Luella, who isn’t rich and has a wilder, more relaxed view on life, encourages his desire. Knowing how much playing the banjo means to Jeremiah, Luella even pushes him to let his parents know, to stop keeping it a secret.

Banjo of Destiny is a great story for kids about finding your passion and pursuing it, not letting others deter you. It’s also a wonderful story about friendship. I love Cary Fagan‘s writing too (Thing-Thing from Tundra Books is still one of my favourite pictures books to date).

To add a copy of Banjo of Destiny to your personal library, visit your local bookstore or Groundwood Books. For other great book ideas for kids, reach through the previous Write a Review Wednesday posts. What books are your kids enjoying?

Write a Review Wedneday: Me and Rolly Maloo

Welcome to another Write a Review Wednesday, a meme started by Tara Lazar as a way to show support to authors of kids literature. Last week we reviewed Bunny’s Lessons. This week we read Charlesbridge Publishing‘s Me and Rolly Maloo (age 8-12), written by Janet S. Wong and illustrated by Elizabeth Buttler. I have to thank Donna at Charlesbridge Publishing for my review copy.

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Jenna is a star at math which makes her not so popular at school. So when Rolly Maloo, the most popular girl in school, invites Jenna over to her house, she is beyond thrilled. This could put Jenna on the popular list, hanging with the cool kids. But when Rolly asks Jenna to help her cheat on a math test, Jenna doesn’t know what to do. She knows cheating is wrong but is it so bad helping a friend in need?

We’ve all been here, well some of us anyway, on the outside of the group, wanting anything to be included. With kids of my own I see these issues rearing their ugly head again, especially with my 8-year old daughter. Everyone wants to feel included. Sometimes that desire can take over cloud your judgement, causing you to make bad decisions and miss the good things you already have.

Me and Rolly Maloo puts you in the shoes of Jenna, wanting to fit in and struggling with right versus wrong and misconceptions of friendship. I like that Jenna’s character, though she knows cheating is wrong, really struggles with the idea. Jenna doesn’t just take the moral high ground or stoop to cheating without giving it much thought. The way the story is written we don’t really know which path Jenna would follow since the actual cheat is interrupted.

Although you might perceive Rolly Maloo to be the bad guy (or girl) in this story, her characterization depicts her as having her own internal struggles over the whole cheating issue. This just reinforces that being popular doesn’t mean life is easy either; there are pressures and stresses and influences that Rolly falls pray to also.

The unique style of Me and Rolly Maloo makes it a great read not only because of the subject matter and issues touched upon, but also in the illustrations used. Me and Rolly Maloo is a chapter book with elements of a graphic novel. This graphic novel aspect gives you a peek at some of the more subtle feelings that not only Jenna and Rolly are encountering but also their friends and mothers (there is no father presence in this story. Actually, there is only one real male figure in the story, one of the classmates). This helps give some background without having to add another whole layer to the story. Plus it is a nice way to break-up the copy for those reluctant readers.

My 8 year old daughter hasn’t had a chance to read Me and Rolly Maloo yet but I think the storyline and the illustrative treatment will be something she will enjoy. To add a copy of Me and Rolly Maloo to your personal library, visit your local bookstore or Charlesbridge Publishing. For other great book ideas for kids, take a read through the past Write a Review Wednesday posts. What are your kids reading?

Write a Review Wednesday: Out of Sight

Welcome to another Write a Review Wednesday, a meme started by Tara Lazar as a way to show support to authors of kids literature. Last week we reviewed Mad at Mommy. This week, with Spring getting closer, we’re thinking about animals in the wild which makes Chronicle Book‘s Out of Sight, by Francesco Pittau and Bernadette Gervais. I have to thank Crystal at Raincoast Books for my review copy.

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Out of Sight combines a child’s love of animals with discovery in the form of a large lift-the-flap book. Although the term lift-the-flap may lead you to believe this is a book aimed at the youngest reader in your family, the content will be entertaining for anyone with an interest in animals.

Each spread includes flaps, revealing a portion of an animal. Some pages show the shadows of an animal, some show the coat, other pages give you a glimps of just the animal’s ears. Kids will love using these hints to try and figure out which animal will be revealed when they lift the flap.

Under each flap you’ll fine not only find an image of the animal being revealed but you’ll also discover an interesting fact:

– A group of lions is a pride, but a group of tigers is an ambush
– A male donkey is called a jack, and a female donkey is called a jenny
– Goats are very agile. They can even climb trees

Each animal name in Out of Sight is also bolded so there’s no mistaken what animal is being referenced. Each page only has flaps, no words. It’s under the flaps where you’ll find these interesting facts. The flaps are in varing sizes throughout the book and pages but they are all big. The pages in the book and the flaps are made of sturdy cardboard stock paper which is ideal as your kids will be flipping the flaps and pages over and over again.

To add a copy of Out of Sight to your own personal library visit your local bookstore or Raincoast Books. For other great book suggestions for kids, read through some of the past Write a Review Wednesday posts. What are your kids reading?

Write a Review Wednesday: Mummy Mazes A Monumental Book

Welcome to another Write a Review Wednesday, a meme started by Tara Lazar as a way to show support to authors of kids literature. Last week we reviewed The Haunted House that Jack Built. In keeping with the Halloween spirit we’re looking at Workman Publishing‘s Mummy Mazes, A Monumental Book (age 8-12), by Elizabeth Carpenter. I have to thank Jillian at Workman Publishing for my review copy.

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When it comes to Halloween creatures mummies are at the top of the list. There’s something fascinating about them and their history. My 8-year old daughter is especially entranced by the whole Egyptian culture, mummies included. In Mummy Mazes, A Monumental Book, kids join Professor Archie Ologist on an expedition to find the secrets of ancient Egypt.

This large book is a combination story and activity book. Each page is filled with an intricate Egyptian mazes, like pyramids and mummies and wall paintings. Along with each maze Professor Ologist gives some interesting facts about Ancient Egypt. Did you know King Djoser built the first pyramid. Before him Kings were buried in dirt mounds or sunken brick chambers.

The mazes themselves are an interesting challenge too. Each maze has 3 starting points and 3 finishing points. Obviously there can only be 1 start and finish so the other 2 are there to mislead you. First step, figuring out where to start. Not to worry, the mazes are designed so you discover the false starts early in the maze; you won’t be halfway through a maze with a false start. Once you’re done the maze, figuring out the correct finish, you then need to use the hieroglyph at the end of your page to solve the mummies message at the end of the book. Each maze can be coloured and removed easily by the perforated edges making them great for display.

Although Mummy Mazes is designed for 8 to 12 year olds, I have found myself drawn into figuring out the mazes along with my daughter. My 6-year old son loves to help find the false starts but the mazes are pretty intricate and his interest usually wanes a little after that. Mummy Mazes is a great way to learn about ancient Egypt in a fun and entertaining way. If you have a child with a fascination with ancient Egypt or solving puzzles, Mummy Mazes might be a great book.

Visit your local bookstore or Workman Publishing to get your own copy of Mummy Mazes, A Monumental Book. For other great book suggestions for kids, read through the previous Write a Review Wednesday posts.

Write a Review Wednesday: Zombiekins

Welcome to another Write a Review Wednesday, a meme started by Tara Lazar as a way to show support to authors of kids literature. Last week we reviewed Doggy Slippers . This week we’re getting a little macarbre with Penguin Canada‘s Zombiekins (7+), written and illustrated by Kevin Bolger. I have to thank Vimala at Penguin Canada for my review copy.

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The little town of Dementedyville is the boring, uneventful place where Stanley Nudelman lives with his family. But all that changes when Stanley buys Zombiekins, a creepy yet strangely cute stuffy, from the woman who is rumored to be a witch and lives down the street. It seems when Zombiekins is exposed to the light of the moon he comes to life, and is hungry. Zombiekins slowly munches and crunches and slobbers his way through Stanley’s elementary school, turning all the kids into zombies. It’s up to Stanley and his friend Miranda to try to stop the school’s complete zombification.

My kids love stories that are a little dark. My 8-year old is fascinated by zombies and vampires and other mythical (yet scary) creatures but most of the books we’ve encountered, that she’s wanted to read, are aimed at an older young adult audience. When I heard about Zombiekins I thought it would be perfect.

My daughter whipped through the first six chapters of the book when it first arrived, saying it was completely creepy but creepy enough that she had to keep reading.

Although Zombiekins is a book about zombies, Kevin Bolger does a great job balancing the creepy with the fun. There’s no talk about blood or brains or other aspects of zombies that you would expect in a zombie book. Bolger’s zombie story leaves it to the child’s imagination what happens. Even the illustrations are fun cartoon style. But don’t get me wrong, the story is still scary and creepy; a few times my daughter had to stop reading and preferred to only read when someone else was in the room with her.

I love how the adult characters, the school teachers, seem oblivious to the zombie changes going on in the school; some teachers actual prefer the kids in their zombie state as these zombie kids listen and follow the rules, except for the ‘don’t chew on your classmates’ rule.

I would have preferred it if Stanley had actually stumbled on the solution versus his friend Miranda but I guess they were working as a team. And it is better than having the witch or some other adult figure step-in. I think young readers will be glued to the pages, I know I spent a late night reading to get to the end. My daughter is still finishing the book so I’m trying hard not to spoil the ending.

And the story of Zombiekins might not be over just yet. Zombiekins II will be crawling to your bookshelf soon…Stump! — scri-i-i-i-i-ich…


For more zombie fun visit www.zombiekins.com

To add a copy of Zombiekins to your own library visit your local bookstore or Penguin Canada. For other great reads for kids checkout earlier Write a Review Wednesday posts.