Stone Fox

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Stone Fox
by John Reynolds Gardiner
written for ages 7-10 | highly recommended
published in 1992 (1980) | HarperCollins | 96 pages

When ten-year-old Willy discovers that his grandfather is too sick to get out of bed, he is determined to take care of him and his farm. Despite discouragement from all the adults around him, he plants and harvests potatoes with the help of his dog Searchlight. Unfortunately he does not earn enough money to pay the back taxes his grandfather owes the government and decides to enter a dog sled race to win enough money to pay the debt. Willy does win the race even though he races against the champion dog racer Stone Fox, a Native American (Stone Fox)trying to earn money to buy back his tribe's land. Willy's victory is bittersweet, though, because Searchlight dies at the end of the race.

Willy demonstrates courage, loyalty, industriousness and perseverance. His win in the end is due in part to Stone Fox's compassion and sense of justice. Despite the sad ending, this book is a worthwhile read.

Jennifer Minicus is… click here to read whole article and make comments


TUESDAY, 15 MAY 2012

On the Wings of Heroes

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On the Wings of Heroes
by Richard Peck
written for ages 11-14 | highly recommended
published in 2007 | Dial Books | 160 pages

Davy Bowman is the luckiest of boys. He lives on a street "where it is always summer when it isn't Halloween or Christmas." He plays games of hide and seek with the neighborhood kids until dark. The dads played, too, "once in awhile before they went to war or worked Sunday shift." Davy's Dad always played. World War II changed life on Davy's street, but it didn't change the fact that his Dad and his big brother Bill were his heroes.

Bill's career as a fighter pilot and the events of the war provide the framework for this heartwarming tale of family life in middle America during World War II. Author Richard Peck pays tribute to own father in the person of Davy's Dad, Earl. Davy's hero worship of his father is not misplaced; we learn through the events of the story that Earl Bowman is a man of character, a family man who has earned the love and respect… click here to read whole article and make comments



Video Review: Best New Books for 4 to 8 Year Olds

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written for ages 2-7 | highly recommended
published in 2011-2012 | 32 pages

You can find short reviews via the links below.

1. Ava's Poppy by Marcus Pfister 
2. The Little Refugee by Anh Do 
3. Blowin' in the Wind by Bob Dylan & Jon Muth
4. E-mergency by Tom Lichtenheld 
5. The Boy Who Wanted to Cook by Gloria Whelan
6. The Adventures of Mark Twain by Huckleberry Finn by Robert Burleigh
7. Library Lily by Gillian Shields

Clare Cannon is the editor of and the manager of Portico Books in Sydney.

click here to read whole article and make comments


MONDAY, 7 MAY 2012

Operation Red Jericho

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Operation Red Jericho
by Joshua Mowll
written for ages 11-14 | recommended
published in 2007 (2005) | Candlewick | 288 pages

Becca (15) and Doug (13) McKenzie become involved with the Honourable Guild of Specialists when their parents disappear, leaving them in the care or their uncle. They learn of the existence of an ancient science, guarded since the time of Alexander the Great by the descendants of four of his cohorts in alliance with the Honourable Guild of Specialists. To regain control of a potent power source, a newly-discovered element, the Guild must defeat the cruel pirate and warlord Sheng-Fat and his allies.

Harking back to adventures of undiscovered science, vicious asiatic warlords and secret societies guarding knowledge kept hidden for centuries, this book presents the start of an adventure for two youngsters: a brother and sister in their early teens in the 1920s. While the back-story encompasses Alexander the Great and his conquest of India, the action all takes place in and around Shanghai at the time of the International Settlement.

The author, an artist himself, adopts the popular… click here to read whole article and make comments


SUNDAY, 6 MAY 2012

The Golden Goblet

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The Golden Goblet
by Eloise Jarvis McGraw
written for ages 11-14 | highly recommended
published in 1986 (1961) | Puffin | 256 pages

Eloise McGraw brings to life the days of Ancient Egypt in her mystery about Ranofer, a young orphan who lives near the Nile River. When Ranofer's father dies, his mother having already passed away, his wicked half-brother Gebu takes him into his home. Ranofer's father had worked as a great goldsmith, and Ranofer has dreamt of following his in footsteps. Unfortunately, Gebu has other plans.

Gebu uses Ranofer to steal gold from a local shop. When Ranofer discovers that he has been part of a thief's plot, he resolves to find a way to inform on his half-brother. Ranofer's search for evidence, however, reveals even greater crimes that put his life in danger. It is only with the help of a young friend and an elderly confidant that Ranofer succeeds in exposing Gebu's crime ring and in making a new life for himself.

McGraw's suspenseful novel incorporates every aspect of life in Ancient Egypt, including religion, fashion, eating habits, politics and… click here to read whole article and make comments


FRIDAY, 4 MAY 2012

Immi’s Gift

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Immi's gift
by Karin Littlewood
written for ages 2-7 | recommended
published in 2010 | Peachtree Publishers | 32 pages

Immi spends her winters living in an igloo built on ice. She fishes for her supper each night. One day she catches a colorful wooden bird and wonders from when it came. Each day, she continues to fish wooden carvings in various shapes along with her fish and uses them to decorate her home. The bright hues cheer up her white igloo. Before spring arrives to melt the ice below her, she drops her own polar bear ornament down her fishing hole, wondering where it will go.

Jennifer Minicus is a teacher and mother currently living in Ridgewood, NJ.

click here to read whole article and make comments



My Friend Walter

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My Friend Walter
by Micheal Morpurgo
written for ages 9-12 | recommended
published in 2001 (1988) | Egmont Books | 160 pages

Bess Throckmorton attends a family reunion and meets the ghost of her ancestor Sir Walter Raleigh of cloak-over-puddle and tobacco fame. Raleigh travels home with her to Devon where he tries to help the rest of the family, none of whom know he is there. However, his actions cause more harm than good and he returns to London. When Bess's family run into money problems and have to sell their farm, Bess turns to Raleigh for help.

Something of a meeting of Josephine Tey's Daughter of Time and The Ghost of Thomas Kempe except that the rehabilitation of Walter Raleigh is not the primary aim of the story, nor is Sir Walter's ghost mischievous like Thomas Kempe's. Rather, he is well-meaning but undone by the results of some of his actions. When Walter steals something to help the family, he tries to justify it by saying that as much was taken unjustly from him when he was condemned as a traitor. Bess… click here to read whole article and make comments



The Lacemaker and the Princess

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The Lacemaker and the Princess
by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
written for ages 9-12 | recommended with reservations
published in 2007 | McElderry | 208 pages

Eleven-year-old Isabelle carries on her family's trade as lacemakers in Versailles with great skill. Living with her harsh-tempered grandmother and sickly mother is not easy, but 18th century France offers no opportunities to the struggling working class. At least not until Isabelle must deliver some lace to a noblewoman at the royal palace and, nearly trampled by courtiers, is saved by Marie Antoinette herself. The queen decides that Isabelle would make a lovely playmate for her daughter Therese. Isabelle finds visiting the palace exciting, but the rumblings of revolution can be heard everywhere. How safe is it for Isabelle to remain Therese's companion?

Kimberly Brubaker Bradley presents a realistic view of life in pre-revolutionary France: the lavish and superficial lifestyle of the nobles, the destitution of the common people and the general lack of healthy living conditions for everyone two hundred years ago. Indeed, many young girls will be surprised to learn that even princesses had bedbugs in their rooms. Although Isabelle… click here to read whole article and make comments



The Four Adventures of Richard Hannay

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Mr. Standfast
by John Buchan
written for ages 11-14 | recommended
published in 2010 (1988) | David R. Godine

Of all the Richard Hannay series this is the book I have returned to the most. The 39 Steps has always seemed to me a lightweight and readable spy thriller but little more. Greenmantle had something more to it, largely I think due to the addition of the circle of friends which would be a staple of the later books. Nonetheless, the plot developed along lines which fairly much had Richard Hannay and Peter Pienaar as men of action, albeit under cover. The Three Hostages is quite different, being more akin to a detective story and with its element of Eastern mysticism and mesmerism so popular among late Victorian writers. Richard Hannay is less of an action figure and is forced to play a (literally) subservient role.

Mr Standfast balances many of these different elements in one story. The story is set in wartime, opens with Hannay being taken out of active service and closes with his return to the… click here to read whole article and make comments



Jenny’s Hat

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Jenny's Hat
by Ezra Jack Keats
written for ages 2-7 | recommended
published in 2003 (1966) | Puffin Books | 40 pages

Spring has arrived in New England, birds and flowers abound, and with them memories of one of my favorite read-alouds. Jenny's Hat is a spring time story, a charmingly told tale about a birthday wish.

Jenny wants a new hat and her aunt has promised to send her one for her birthday. We can only imagine Jenny's excitement and the stunning hat she has created in her mind as she waits for the mail. It is only too clear when we see her crinkle-nosed pout that the perfectly lovely hat she pulls from the box does not begin to measure up to the hat of her dreams. Jenny's disappointment drives her to distraction and the spring time beauty that surrounds her only makes her feels worse.

As she sighs and mumbles and loses herself in her day dreams, Ezra Jack Keats surrounds her with the beauty of the season and a constant parade of glorious hats atop the heads of… click here to read whole article and make comments


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Reading Matters is MercatorNet’s blog about children’s literature. Our goal is to enable parents and educators to find quality books for young people. For an explanation of our evaluation system, click here. We welcome reader input and new reviewers. We love comments on the book reviews. Write to us at

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