MONDAY, 1 SEPTEMBER 2014

Eric Carle gets personal

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Friends
by Eric Carle
written for ages 2-7 | acceptable
published in 2013 | Philomel | 32 pages


Eric Carle fans may be a little disappointed in his latest picture book.  While his illustrations capture the reader’s attention with colors that express, with simple strokes, both images and feelings, the theme of Friends may be more than the average pre-schooler can understand.  Reminiscing about a long lost friend from his own pre-school days, Carle describes a close relationship, a sense of loss when the friend moves away and an emotional reunion that leads to marriage. His inclusion of an actual photo of his friend and himself may pull at the heartstrings of adults.  Children, however, may have a hard time relating to this book.

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

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WEDNESDAY, 27 AUGUST 2014

Exiles from Troy discover the New World

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The Kingdom of Patria
by Daniel McInerny
written for ages 9-12 | highly recommended
published in 2012 | Trojan Tub Entertainment


When Oliver Stoop's father is promoted to president of his company, the Republic of Staplers, he decides the family must move to the country where they can have privacy and room enough to build his dream "castle". At age eleven, Oliver does not mind leaving his friends and school behind; he still has his collection of The Chronicles of Odysseus Murgatroyd, Adventurer that he can read in his tent in the middle of their mobile home while construction gets under way.

Living in the middle of nowhere seems the ideal situation for Mr. Stoop's plans, but Oliver is not so sure. He notices people in the nearby woods, and the Stoops quickly find themselves embroiled in a conflict with a clandestine group of settlers. They claim that they have a treaty, signed by Thomas Jefferson, granting them a small portion of the now State of Indiana for their Kingdom of Patria. The Patrians have maintained a lifestyle that resembles… click here to read whole article and make comments


 

MONDAY, 25 AUGUST 2014

An enduring appeal

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Horrid Henry Shows Who's Boss
by Francesca Simon
written for ages 7-10 | highly recommended
published in 2010 | Orion Children's Books | 208 pages


Twenty years ago, in 1994, the very first Horrid Henry book hit the shelves. Since then, this amazing little character has sold over fifteen million copies. Author Francesca Simon aptly sums up the reasons for the enduring appeal of Horrid Henry:

    “I often describe the Horrid Henry books as westerns for kids. Henry is an outlaw, who behaves dreadfully, yet often triumphs. Just as adults like reading about people who go against convention, so kids get a thrill from a child who always acts on impulse and never worries about the consequences. Henry is pure ego, while Perfect Peter is an exaggerated version of the impeccably behaved child parents think they want.

There are a variety of Horrid Henry stories, many of which are coming out this year to coincide with the twenty year anniversary. Your library, bookshop or e-reader will have plentiful copies. Children can also find fun activities, jokes and "how to draw" Horrid Henry… click here to read whole article and make comments


 

WEDNESDAY, 20 AUGUST 2014

Can a twelve year old save the day?

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The Secret History of Tom Trueheart
by Ian Beck
written for ages 9-12 | recommended
published in 2007 | Greenwillow | 352 pages


Tom has always admired his six older brothers who have followed in their father's footsteps as adventurers. They are handsome and brave and courageously complete the tales the Story Bureau begins for them in the Land of Stories. Not quite twelve, Tom must remain at home with his mother, but he does not mind. Deep down, he fears the dangers his brothers face as they develop these stories. He knows, however, that on his next birthday he will begin his training as an adventurer and hopes he will have the daring required to be a true hero.

When Tom's twelfth birthday arrives, his brothers fail to return home to celebrate. His assignment from the Story Bureau is still delivered, and Tom learns that his brothers' absence is no coincidence. Someone has tampered with the stories his brothers were meant to live out. Now Tom must find them and put the Land of Stories back on track.

Young readers will enjoy… click here to read whole article and make comments


 

MONDAY, 18 AUGUST 2014

There’s no friend like a sister

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The Exiles at Home
by Hilary McKay
written for ages 9-12 | highly recommended
published in 2007 (1993) | Margaret K. McElderry Books | 208 pages


In this sequel to The Exiles, 13-year-old Ruth Conroy, hiding in the school library when she's feeling ill, rashly fills in a form to sponsor an African schoolboy, writing her age in such a way that it looks like she's eighteen. She uses her Christmas money from Big Grandma, but that leaves the girls £10 a month to find for the rest of the year. Their schemes are both funny and heartfelt, and involve an elderly couple for whom Naomi, age 11, does gardening work without charging. When they finally get desperate, they turn to Big Grandma for help.

Like Hilary McKay's other families, the Conroys are funny, loving and completely believable. McKay captures perfectly the age-gap between the children in a family, the resentment between sisters when one or other is shut out from events, and the fierce solidarity and increasingly desperate determination to overcome external obstacles. No one could possibly claim that Ruth, Naomi, Rachel(8) and… click here to read whole article and make comments


 

SUNDAY, 17 AUGUST 2014

The boys of summer

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On Green Diamonds: Pursuing a Dream
by Tom Tatum
| acceptable
published in 2014 | Xlibris | 328 pages


Written in the style of an autobiography, this novel follows a young fictitious baseball player from childhood to the major leagues. The story is told by another "baseball legend", Gabe "Fireball" Nelson who retires after winning a Cy Young Award, hoping to fade into oblivion. He succeeds until he meets a young widow, Sarah, and her eight-year-old son, Tyler. Tyler is reticent until Gabe offers to teach him to play ball. Thus begins a lifelong friendship between them that eventually launches Gabe back into the limelight.

Gabe coaches Tyler from Little League through his college years. More importantly, he becomes a father figure and role model for the young man. Gabe's lessons extend beyond sports, touching on everything from dating to the spiritual life. Gabe's advice is grounded in traditional values, and Tyler takes to them quite well. In fact, the ease with which he learns life's lessons and grows in virtues seems unrealistic, while Gabe's delivery is, at times,… click here to read whole article and make comments


 

THURSDAY, 14 AUGUST 2014

Angels among us

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The Ether: Vero Rising
by Laurice E. Molinari
written for ages 11-14 | acceptable
published in 2014 | Zonderkidz | 368 pages


Vero Leland has always wanted to fly. While many children are satisfied jumping off the arm of the living room couch, Vero's desire to soar has taken him places no parent wants to see a child, such as the house roof. Vero's advanced intelligence and perception also mark him as somewhat different. Still, his mother denies that Vero is anything but a normal pre-teen. She knows better.

After Vero turns twelve, his life starts to change in unexpected ways. He begins seeing things and sprouting wings from his back. Eventually he meets Uriel, who not only informs Vero that he is a guardian angel, but takes him to The Ether, a training ground for guardian angels. Slowly, Vero realizes that the reason he never truly fit in on Earth is because he never really belonged there. He and his fellow fledgling angels had been sent to live on Earth until they were old enough to begin their training. Now they… click here to read whole article and make comments


 

MONDAY, 11 AUGUST 2014

Imaginative book for mature readers to be released this month

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Gabriel Finley and the Raven's Riddle
by George Hagen
written for ages 11-14 | recommended
published in 2014 | Schwartz & Wade | 384 pages


There is an incredible amount of action packed within this children's book! A little less busyness may have added to the story's dramatic effect instead of making it seem rather a long read three-quarters of the way through. However the story is imaginative and intriguing, and something stands out as a little different in style and creativity from many current children's books.

Twelve-year-old Gabriel sets out on a quest to find his missing father. There are themes of the struggle between good and evil, bullies, honesty and dishonesty, the superficiality of appearances, kindness, an abusive parent, an overprotecting parent, magic, friendship, family and learning to trust. Trust is the virtue that is shown to overcome many obstacles in life. At times, the main character Gabriel does seem a bit unbelievable in his naieve and trusting outlook as though he has no inner voice of anticipation of danger.

A caution that some parts are quite horrific, particularly the opening which sets… click here to read whole article and make comments


 

MONDAY, 4 AUGUST 2014

The downside to cloning

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Escape from Genopolis
by T.E. Berry-Hart
written for ages 13-16 | acceptable
published in 2007 | Scholastic | 416 pages


Usha and Arlo meet in the gladiatorial Circus, she as a recaptured slave who must fight for her life, he as a Natural who's been raised among citizens and who is now trying to return to the Regions outside the city to find his family. With others who are caught up in their escape, they flee to the inhospitable regions outside Genopolis but find danger there as well.

This is a fairly conventional story of a near future where society is divided after a natural apocalypse. The Citizens of Genopolis are the result of genetic manipulation to remove fear and pain, the better to cope with the hazards life brings. The Gemini are clones, either for slavery or as spare body parts for the elderly rich. The Naturals live outside the city in the wilderness Regions and are despised by the Citizens. They have a tribal lifestyle and give birth naturally. They retain the emotions which the Citizens… click here to read whole article and make comments


 

THURSDAY, 31 JULY 2014

Popular series has this reviewer yawning

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Midnight (The Warrior Series)
by Erin Hunter
written for ages 9-12 | acceptable
published in 2005 | HarperCollins | 336 pages


As one of a large group of feral cats, Brambleclaw maintains strong ties to the other members of the Thunderclan. He has trained long and hard to become a warrior, ready to defend his clan and hunt for food to sustain it. For reasons unknown to him, Brambleclaw is haunted by strange dreams sent from the StarClan, a group of mysterious supernatural cats. He suspects that he has received a special mission essential to his clan's survival, but dares not reveal this to anyone, not even the leader of the Thunderclan cats, Firestar.

Following instructions from his dreams, Brambleclaw learns that he must fulfill this mission with the help of cats from other clans. Although the warrior code forbids it, he sets out with five other cats to discover what danger threatens the cats of the forest and what they can do to save themselves. On their journey, these felines encounter the world of men. Working together, they succeed in… 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 jennifer.minicus@mercatornet.com.


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