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Posted by on Jul 20, 2016 | 0 comments

Grace and Grit: Chapter Books for 10 & Up

Grace and Grit: Chapter Books for 10 & Up

Grace and grit are recurrent themes in all five of the extraordinary middle-grade novels below—my 2016 favorites thus far. Each of the main characters wrestles with “life’s unfairness,” be it loss, prejudice, bullying, or injury. At first glance, we as parents might want to shelter our children from such “heavy” subject matter. And yet, thanks to the vulnerability, courageousness, humor, and empathy of the protagonists below, life ultimately emerges as something precious and beautiful. Put a different way: I would like nothing more than for my children to have these characters as their friends, mentors, and allies in their own journey toward self-discovery. Wolf Hollow By Lauren Wolk (Ages 10-15) “If my life was to be just a single note in an endless symphony, how could I not sound it out for as long and as loudly as I could?” Annabelle, a young heroine growing up amidst dangerous secrets in rural Pennsylvania in the wake of World War I, might be one of my favorite characters ever—and not just...

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Posted by on Jul 14, 2016 | 1 comment

Summering Outside the Box: Early Chapter Series for 6-9 Years

Summering Outside the Box: Early Chapter Series for 6-9 Years

One of the most powerful things that literature can do is to exploit the expectations we have of our world, to show us that things are not always as they appear. For our kids, the sooner they experience the limitations of judging by appearance, the sooner they can open their hearts to life’s thrilling surprises. Most people assume these kinds of “life lessons” are served up in serious fiction. But these early chapter series prove that it’s possible to start thinking outside the box at a young age—and with a strong dose of humor as well! The reading level of these early chapter books is geared towards 6-9 year olds who are reading fluidly on their own, but—and I speak from personal experience here—the stories will be equally enjoyed by parents who choose to read them aloud! Cody and the Mysteries of the Universe By Tricia Springstubb, illus. Eliza Wheeler While our family enjoyed the first title in this charming reality-based series, the second book really won our hearts....

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Posted by on Jun 15, 2016 | 1 comment

Summer in the Garden: Picture Books for Ages 4-8

Summer in the Garden: Picture Books for Ages 4-8

Today we welcome Melissa LaSalle, author of the blog What to Read to Your Kids, to share her top picture books for summer. Stay tuned for her favorite chapter books for older kids later this month. One of the best things I’ve done as a parent is to plant a butterfly garden on the side of our house. In full disclosure, I initially had professional help, but the kids and I are now going at it alone, choosing new plants, transplanting others, and filling in remaining gaps with seeds. But the most fun comes from observing the changing blooms and insects. Some of the older perennials have grown over my five year old’s head, and she likes to weave in and out of the maze, addressing the bees and butterflies and welcoming them to our garden. Each day there is something new to behold, and most of the time my kids spot it before me. I hope my list of garden-themed picture books, some new and some older favorites,...

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Posted by on Oct 14, 2015 | 1 comment

Favorite Stories to Share at Halloween for Tots Through Tweens

Favorite Stories to Share at Halloween for Tots Through Tweens

Listen to the wind picking up, snuggle under a blanket, and enjoy sharing these alternately funny and spooky stories about witches, ghosts, monsters, and jack ‘o lanterns. Many of these don’t specifically reference Halloween, which makes them all the better for pulling out all year round when the mood strikes. Here are my pics for spooky books from youngest to oldest ages. Pete the Cat: Five Little Pumpkins By James Dean (Ages 2-4) I’ll forever have a soft spot in my heart for the “Five Little Pumpkins” poem, which my son used to recite to us when he was a preschooler. I only wish this book had been published back then! Ten Orange Pumpkins By Stephen Savage (Ages 2-6) In this delightfully dark Halloween-themed countdown, the reader must look closely to discover the mystery behind how each pumpkin disappears. You can read my full review here. Happy Halloween, Witch’s Cat! By Harriet Muncaster (Ages 2-6) The charming dress-up enthusiast from last year’s I am a Witch’s Cat is back...

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Posted by on Jul 14, 2015 | 1 comment

Summer Reading: Everyday Magic for 9-14 Year Olds

Summer Reading: Everyday Magic for 9-14 Year Olds

Today we’re finishing up Melissa LaSalle’s series on summer reading recommendations for kids. First, she shared noteworthy picture books, then it was early chapter books and now here’s a few of her favorites for older kids that inspire “everyday magic.” When I was seven, I discovered No Such Thing as a Witch, one of a number of early chapter books written by Ruth Chew in the 1970s about kids stumbling upon magical objects in their everyday lives. In one fell swoop, my love of literary magic was born, and I went on to scavenge the library shelves each summer for similar adventures touched by magic. I’m thrilled that Chew’s books are being re-published today, so that my own children can enjoy them; but I’m even more pleased that the subject of everyday magic is being woven by contemporary authors into more mature, complex, rich, and original works of fiction for the middle-grade crowd. Each of the following new(ish) novels are masterpieces, just waiting to transform an ordinary summer into...

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