The Penderwicks

The Penderwicks

by Jeanne Birdsall

A National Book Award winner, this modern classic is perfect for fans of Noel Streatfeild and Edward Eager.

This summer the Penderwick sisters have a wonderful surprise: a holiday on the grounds of a beautiful estate called Arundel. Soon they are busy discovering the summertime magic of Arundel’s sprawling gardens, treasure-filled attic, tame rabbits, and the cook who makes the best gingerbread in Massachusetts. But the best discovery of all is Jeffrey Tifton, son of Arundel’s owner, who quickly proves to be the perfect companion for their adventures.

The icy-hearted Mrs. Tifton is not as pleased with the Penderwicks as Jeffrey is, though, and warns the new friends to stay out of trouble. Which, of course, they will—won’t they? One thing’s for sure: it will be a summer the Penderwicks will never forget.

Deliciously nostalgic and quaintly witty, this is a story as breezy and carefree as a summer day.

That warm, buttery yellow cottage that the Penderwicks arrive to is just the beginning of this sumptuous reading experience. We can all remember that one, unforgettable summer filled with warm, radiant days and fun and adventure.

This book is Anne of Green Gables – with its idyllic setting – meets Little Women – with its strong, well developed characters moving through the pages. If you’re looking for one captivating premise that will sell you on this, you won’t find it. I can say it’s a glimpse into a time filled with small adventures, amazing encounters, beautiful characters – including of the cuddly variety. It’s as if Birdsall had all of them sitting before her as she wrote this, recounting to her that one unforgettable summer.

 

One of my new favourite books.

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The Little Prince

The Little Prince

By Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Moral allegory and spiritual autobiography, The Little Prince is the most translated book in the French language. With a timeless charm it tells the story of a little boy who leaves the safety of his own tiny planet to travel the universe, learning the vagaries of adult behaviour through a series of extraordinary encounters. His personal odyssey culminates in a voyage to Earth and further adventures.

A classic from Europe to the other side of the ocean, The Little Prince is a book I only recently picked up. I read a few pages a while back, but didn’t stick it though long enough to let the charm of the little prince dazzle me. The stories he shares of all the planets he has prior to visited before coming to earth is clearly Exupery’s own comments on society, and the types of people who inhabit it; whether miserable or content.

The Little Prince looks at the world with a delicate eye and these grand, esoteric revelations on love and loss are something that makes me believe it is a better suited as an adult book, however short it may be.

It is classified under the 9-year age range, and I just can’t imagine a child appreciating this  story. While the premise is quirky enough to gauge anyone’s attention, it really is a deep and philosophical book that someone can pick up from time to time, read a passage from, and find some relevance and application to their own lives.

 

 

Belly UP

Belly Up 

By Stuart Gibbs 

12 year old Theodore“Teddy” Roosevelt Fitzroy has got a murder on his hands and trouble on his tail. Henry, the hippopatamus at the brand-new nationally known FunJungle, has gone belly up. Even though it’s claimed he died of natural causes, Teddy smells something fishy and it sure ain’t the polar bear’s lunch. 

Stuart Gibbs keeps you moving in his spectacular debut novel as you’re introduced to a young boy named Teddy, who seeks to uncover the mysterious death of Henry—a 4,000-pound hippo who one day, very suddenly and mysteriously goes belly up. Cue all the antics that ensue within the parameters of the FunJungle zoo—and that’s where the story really kicks off.

There’s no reason for this notoriously mean hippo’s sudden parting. After all, he’s still young, still robust and full of temperamental spirit. There’s something else going on here, something deep and sinister.

This mystery keeps you guessing, and also laughing along as the plot unfolds with startling detail and accuracy. No surprise, Gibbs formerly worked at the Philadelphia Zoo. His passion seeps through the pages and lends credibility to the characters and resonance to their voice.

It’s a great book that I would definitely recommend to any one who is young or young at heart and looking for a good, nuanced mystery, humour, and of course, animals!

The Mysterious Benedict Society

The Mysterious Benedict Society 

by Trenton Lee Stewart

“Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?” 

Dozens of children respond to this peculiar ad in the newspaper and are then put through a series of mind-bending tests, which readers take along with them. Only four children-two boys and two girls-succeed. Their challenge: to go on a secret mission that only the most intelligent and inventive children could complete. To accomplish it they will have to go undercover at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, where the only rule is that there are no rules. But what they’ll find in the hidden underground tunnels of the school is more than your average school supplies. So, if you’re gifted, creative, or happen to know Morse Code, they could probably use your help.

I liked this book because it highlights how each of us are talented in our own way. We can each use our skills and intelligence to contribute to things that matter. This is the first of the four-book series. The reading level will likely challenge many young readers, as it should. Kid’s books are not only simple and shallow, and this book proves it through its well-written and nuanced writing. Each of the kids is uniquely talented, and each uses their skills to contribute to this great adventure.

The Cricket in Times Square

The Cricket in Times Square 

by George Selden

Tucker is a streetwise city mouse. He thought he’d seen it all. But he’s never met a cricket before, which really isn’t surprising, because, along with his friend Harry Cat, Tucker lives in the very heart of New York City―the Times Square subway station. Chester Cricket never intended to leave his Connecticut meadow. He’d be there still if he hadn’t followed the entrancing aroma of liverwurst right into someone’s picnic basket. Now, like any tourist in the city, he wants to look around. And he could not have found two better guides―and friends―than Tucker and Harry. The trio have many adventures―from taking in the sights and sounds of Broadway to escaping a smoky fire.

Simple and heart-warming, this book wins me over. I’m a sucker for books about friendship, animals, and New York City; and I lucked out on all three. There’s something about combining the small – in this case insects and animals – with the big – New York City. What you get is magic. It gave me that feeling I had when I read Harriet the Spy; there’s this little world and many little worlds unfolding in an immense city. Only in NYC can people and creatures of such diverse backgrounds find love and companionship together.

Gertie’s Leap to Greatness

Gertie’s Leap to Greatness 

by Kate Beasley

Gertie Reece Foy is 100% Not-From-Concentrate awesome. She has a daddy who works on an oil rig, a great-aunt who always finds the lowest prices at the Piggly Wiggly, and two loyal best friends. So when her absent mother decides to move away from their small town, Gertie sets out on her greatest mission yet: becoming the best fifth grader in the universe to show her mother exactly what she’ll be leaving behind. There’s just one problem: Seat-stealing new girl Mary Sue Spivey wants to be the best fifth grader, too. And there is simply not enough room at the top for the two of them.

This book is so good! I don’t use the exclamation mark lightly. Gertie’s woes and troubles are all at once the common-day travails of children, and yet distinct. Gertie’s mother has abandoned her, and this headstrong heroine traverses the struggles of Grade 5: popularity, friends, grades, and the bigger stuff.

I could feel my pulse racing at points because the author does such a great job of making us feel that unfairness in certain circumstances, and some nail-biting scenes in others, which I won’t give away.

 

Leap to the nearest bookstore, and meet Gertie the great!

I love my job

I love working at a bookstore. I’m a bibliothecary: someone who collects, maintains and cares for books. I’m also seeing kids and adults come in every day and helping them buy some pretty awesome books.

One of the perks of my job is getting to borrow books. I take home stacks of them so I can either whip through them quickly, or take my time with some that are truly phenomenal.

Here’s one thing you discover when you work in the  world of kid’s books, it doesn’t matter how short a story is-the quality does not depend on length. Some of the best books out there are only a few pages long, but they stay with you for a very long time. Like Amos and Boris, the tale of a mouse and a whale. I got emotional reading it and bought the book on the spot.

It’s a beautiful thing feeling like I’ve finally discovered my passion.

 

 

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

by Robert C. O’Brien

Mrs. Frisby, a widowed mouse with four small children, must move her family to their summer quarters immediately, or face almost certain death. But her youngest son, Timothy, lies ill with pneumonia and must not be moved. Fortunately, she encounters the rats of NIMH, an extraordinary breed of highly intelligent creatures, who come up with a brilliant solution to her dilemma.

I felt I was reading two stories in one. At first I thought, wow, this kick-butt mom is going on adventure upon adventure to save her sick son. She braves a cat named Dragon, hops atop  the back of a crow and soars over a new world, meets an owl, and so on. No wonder it won the Newbery medal. But pretty soon, that story ends just as quick as it starts and we’re now on a whole new story about a unique group of rats.

Either way, this book kept me in suspense. Well written, interesting premise, just expect two stories in one.

Two Naomis

Two Naomis

by  Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, Audrey Vernick

A realistic contemporary story of two girls, both named Naomi, whose divorced parents begin to date—perfect for fans of Lisa Graff, Sara Pennypacker, and Rita Williams-Garcia.

Other than their first names, Naomi Marie and Naomi Edith are sure they have nothing in common, and they wouldn’t mind keeping it that way.

Naomi Marie starts clubs at the library and adores being a big sister. Naomi Edith loves quiet Saturdays and hanging with her best friend in her backyard. And while Naomi Marie’s father lives a few blocks away, Naomi Edith wonders how she’s supposed to get through each day a whole country apart from her mother.

When Naomi Marie’s mom and Naomi Edith’s dad get serious about dating, each girl tries to cling to the life she knows and loves. Then their parents push them into attending a class together, where they might just have to find a way to work with each other—and maybe even join forces to find new ways to define family.”

This is an endearing story about two girls, both named Naomi, whose lives are about to merge. I didn’t expect to like the book this much. It’s co-authored – each author writing the voice of one of the girls. One Naomi is black, the other white. In addition to a fun plot and narrative that would I would definitely imagine coming from girls of that age, this book tackles diversity, the pain of divorce, while staying true to life and upholding the themes of love and acceptance.

It was an overall sweet tale, sad at times, funny at others and really touching upon themes of separation that kids often feel following a divorce.

I was close to tears on many occasions, especially when Naomi Marie gets this lesson from her mother:

“Sometimes there’s more room in our lives than we realize. We can grow and grow, and the world around us can too. So…Maybe Naomi Marie is on her way to being a fuller Naomi. Maybe Naomi Marie will shine even more, and light will help others do the same.”

 

 

Ghosts

Ghosts 

by Raina Telgemeier

Catrina and her family are moving to the coast of Northern California because her little sister, Maya, is sick. Cat isn’t happy about leaving her friends for Bahía de la Luna, but Maya has cystic fibrosis and will benefit from the cool, salty air that blows in from the sea. As the girls explore their new home, a neighbor lets them in on a secret: There are ghosts in Bahía de la Luna. Maya is determined to meet one, but Cat wants nothing to do with them. As the time of year when ghosts reunite with their loved ones approaches, Cat must figure out how to put aside her fears for her sister’s sake – and her own.

It’s been a long time, if not the first time, since I’ve read a book that deals with the topic of death without being too melodramatic or horrific, and instead maintains a harmonious balance of emotions.

The Day of the Dead celebration just happens to coincide with Catrina and her family’s move to a new town, and  parallels Maya’s own fears of dying, which, for anyone living with the devastating illness of cystic fibrosis, is understandable.  But together, she and her sister learn that death, while little understood, is a part of life. By joining together in the festivities, by remembering those who have passed before us and maintaining relationships with them, by accepting feelings of grief: it expands into our way of life, culture, and even our celebrations.

I commend Telgemeier for Ghosts; not only is the illustration beautiful, she portrays the culture without exotifiying it,  or as is all too common, making it feel like lecture.

Not since The Bridge to Terabithia has a book succeeded in bridging the topic of death in a kid’s world, and when I close the book I’m left feeling sad, inspired, and accepting of all my emotions.