Month: April 2017

What My Kids Are Reading 4/28/17


The 6-Year-Old

From Amazon: “All of Louis’s thoughts are very important to him. In fact, his thoughts are so important to him that when he has something to say, his words begin to wiggle, and then they do the jiggle, then his tongue pushes all of his important words up against his teeth and he erupts, or interrupts others. His mouth is a volcano! My Mouth Is A Volcano takes an empathetic approach to the habit of interrupting and teaches children a witty technique to capture their rambunctious thoughts and words for expression at an appropriate time. Told from Louis’ perspective, this story provides parents, teachers, and counselors with an entertaining way to teach children the value of respecting others by listening and waiting for their turn to speak.”

This book is so much fun, whether or not your own child “erupts” other people all the time. It’s funny for kids, the illustrations are great, and it’s a great opening to talk about not interrupting in a fun way.

I know I posted this a couple of weeks ago, but my 6-year-old still insists on reading a few pages of this to my husband and me every single night. Over 50 years after its original publication, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish shows that it stands the test of time with kids learning to read, and wanting reading to be fun. Dr. Seuss clearly knew what he was doing!

The 8-Year-Old

From the publisher: “In the series opener, Jack and the Geniuses: At The Bottom of The World, readers meet Jack and his foster siblings, Ava and Matt, who are orphans. But they’re not your typical kind of orphans—they’re geniuses. Well, Ava and Matt are, which sometimes makes life difficult for 1twelve-year-old Jack. Ava speaks multiple languages and builds robots for fun, and Matt is into astronomy and a whiz at math. As for Jack, it’s hard to stand out when he’s surrounded by geniuses all the time. When the kids try to spy on Dr. Hank Witherspoon, one of the world’s leading scientists, they end up working for him in his incredible laboratory. Soon, Hank and the kids travel to Antarctica for a prestigious science competition, but they find that all is not as it seems: A fellow scientist has gone missing, and so has any trace of her research. Could someone be trying to use her findings to win the contest? It’s up to Jack, Ava, and Matt to find the missing scientist and discover who’s behind it all—before it’s too late.”

It is so much fun to watch a new generation of kids discover Bill Nye the Science Guy, and I was so excited to see that he’s started a middle grade book series! This book is so good that we started out reading it together, and my 8-year-old didn’t want to wait so he kept reading it on his own to find out what happened next. It’s funny, smart, and will make all kids interested in science. (Who wouldn’t want a flying robot?) If your child loves science and mysteries, this is the book for him or her. If your kid isn’t too excited about science yet, this is the book to get them excited. The second book in the series, Jack and the Geniuses: In the Deep Blue Sea, comes out on September 12!

What We’re Reading Together

Not a traditional book this week, but we’ve been having fun reading Highlights and High Five magazines together! I loved reading Highlights as a kid, and I love reading it with my kids now. I would definitely recommend these magazines to anyone with kids who love to read and love to get mail. (Which is everyone!)

TBA Review: Ada’s Violin

Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay by Susan Hood
Illustrated by Sally Wern Comport

Bluebonnet Author Site (with author and illustrator interviews, recycled orchestra activities, and links to videos of the Recycled Orchestra’s concerts)

The Recycled Orchestra Website

“Ada Rios grew up in a town made of trash.”

If that first line doesn’t get your or your kids’ attention, I don’t know what will.

There is a group of kids in Paraguay that live in, for, and because of trash. Daily life revolves around picking useful and saleable things from the heaps of trash dumped near their homes every day. Although the kids do attend school, they are usually told that the best they can hope for is to also become trash collectors. A few of these kids, and one amazing music teacher, decided that there had to be something else, and that art, even in a literal pile of garbage, was worth creating and maintaining. With the help of their families and teacher, the kids collected items from the garbage and made instruments. Real instruments that they have crafted and perfected to play each note perfectly on key. Even though finding the time and energy to not just make the instruments but then learn to play them, and then learn to play big musical pieces, was difficult, they persisted. Now the Recycled Orchestra tours the world and has even played with Metallica and Stevie Wonder. The money the Recycled Orchestra earns goes back to help pull their families out of slum living, and there are plans to help other kids living in landfills around the world.

The illustrations in Ada’s Violin are collage-style, to mimic the theme of making something from pieces of other things, and they really are beautiful.

This story is beyond inspiring. The kids in Cateura, Paraguay, made something from next to nothing, and they never gave up, despite having every reason to. Creating and making music gave them a sense of importance, and a sense of belonging in a world that hadn’t been very kind to them. It’s a beautiful narrative and a beautiful book. This is such an important story, and I hope more people learn about the Recycled Orchestra because of it. If you can’t get to the book, or want to know more about them RIGHT NOW, go check out all the videos of the Recycled Orchestra playing in concert. They are extremely talented, and their homemade instruments are amazing!


What My Kids Are Reading 4/21/17


The 8-Year-Old


From the publisher: “Humor, magic, and adventure abound in the third—and final—book of Caroline Carlson’s middle grade fantasy series, the Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates. Hilary Westfield is now a freelance pirate. After trying to prove herself to the VNHLP, she realized many members of the league weren’t all that honorable—not even very nearly. With Captain Blacktooth in cahoots with the Mutineers, the kingdom of Augusta—and all of its magic—is at risk. What the League needs is a very honorable pirate to be their new president. So Hilary—with the help of her friends, including the always-spirited gargoyle—challenges Blacktooth to a High Seas battle. Winner takes all. Loser, at best, will be exiled.”

My son is listening to this as an audiobook and loving it! He hasn’t read any others in the series but, unlike me, he doesn’t mind reading books out of order, and he’s on the waitlist for the first in Connie Carlson’s series about a girl pirate, Magic Marks the Spot (Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates). He loves the adventure, and the narration is really good on the audiobook!

The 6-Year-Old


From the publisher: “FACT: Robots are awesome. They have lasers for eyes, rockets for feet, and supercomputers for brains! Plus, robots never have to eat steamed beans or take baths, or go to bed. If only there were some sort of magical “Robo-Sauce” that turned squishy little humans into giant awesome robots… Well, now there is. Giggle at the irreverent humor, gasp at the ingenious fold-out surprise ending, and gather the whole family to enjoy a unique story about the power of imagination. It’s picture book technology the likes of which humanity has never seen!”

Another one from Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri! This book is so much fun, even after the 200th reading of it to your kid! It’s funny, creative, and the book even turns into a robot book at the end. (You’ll have to check it out to see what I mean!) This is always a favorite.

What We’re Reading Together


From the publisher: “Nicholas wants to be as brave as his dad, but he needs help. That’s why he needs a dinosaur. After all, dinosaurs like the dark, bugs are nothing to them, and they eat manhole covers for lunch (and everything under them for dinner). With his toy dinosaur, Nicholas can scale tall walls, swim in deep water, even score a goal against the huge goalie everyone calls Gorilla. But when the dinosaur goes missing, everything is scary again. Luckily, his dad knows that even the bravest people can get scared, and it’s okay to ask for help facing your fears. It’s just guy stuff.”

This is such a lovely book that even my 8-year-old, who initially didn’t want to listen because he thought it was just a little kid’s picture book, ran over when he heard me reading it, and then read it to himself after. I was drawn to this book by its cover (Contrary to popular belief, it’s totally ok to love a book for its cover!), which is no surprise since the illustrator, Dan Santat, also wrote and illustrated The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend, one of my favorite children’s books. A boy is scared of lots of things and wants to be brave like his dad. When he loses his bravery talisman, a small dinosaur, his dad jumps in to save the day, and to let him know that it’s ok for guys to be afraid. In a day where kids are often told to hurry up and grow up, and to toughen up, it’s wonderful to have a book that reinforces the fact that it is ok to be afraid, and that dads and boys can be afraid too.


Review: In a Dark, Dark Wood

A glass house in the middle of a forest, a group of friends and acquaintances, and a hen (bachelorette) party celebrating a beautiful, popular girl. What could go wrong? Author Ruth Ware (author of The Woman in Cabin 10) has written a compulsively readable thriller that I couldn’t put down. Leonora Shaw, a crime writer, is invited to the hen party of a school friend she hasn’t seen in ten years. She agrees to go, but an old memory keeps popping up, making her uncomfortable and heightening the odd things that keep happening in the house in the woods. Is her friend really the same person she used to be, or has she changed? Has Leonora really been able to move on from what happened so long ago? As the weekend goes on, the questions are answered, but even more come up as things get twisted and confused. It’s always darkest before the dawn, and that couldn’t be truer than in this novel.

In a Dark, Dark Wood is most definitely a thriller, but not gory or so scary that you won’t be able to read it at night. (Which I appreciate!) I love the way Ruth Ware tells a story, and I liked this book even more than The Woman in Cabin 10. (In fact, having read them in opposite publication order, I kind of feel like The Woman in Cabin 10 is the water-version of In a Dark, Dark Wood. Not a bad thing, just my observation.) The isolation of the house and the woods, and subsequently the guests, is wonderfully done and doesn’t feel contrived at all. I kept thinking of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None while reading this, as the atmosphere is very similar.

The characters are so well done, and while some are more likeable than others, unless you’re paying very close attention (and not completely swallowed up by the story like I was), you might not be able to guess what really happened until the end. My one caveat is that while I did like the characters for different reasons, I wasn’t really rooting for any one of them, even the main character. I just wanted to find out what really happened. There is some character development, but the novel is mostly plot-based. I’m ok with that since the writing was so good, and this is a thriller, not Jane Eyre.

I love a book that hooks me from the very first line, and this is one of those. It begins, “I am running.” So simple, and so effective. You’ll want to keep reading to find out why the narrator is running. If thrillers aren’t usually a genre you read, give this one a try! The story is great, and you might surprise yourself by becoming a fan! If this IS your genre, it should hold you over until Paula Hawkins’ new book, Into the Water: A Novel, is published on May 2!


TBA Review: Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions

Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton     Illustrated by Don Tate

Bluebonnet Author Site (with an author interview, lots of cool information, and fun projects for kids related to the book)

This Texas Bluebonnet Award nominee is the first book I read from the list and it is so good! Do you know who invented the Super Soaker? I didn’t either, until I read this book. Chris Barton tells the story of a kid who wanted to be an inventor and actually grew up to be one, despite living through some difficulties that would get the best of us, including the racially-charged 1960s. His claim to fame may be the Super Soaker (and my 10-year-old self will always think that’s his coolest invention), but Lonnie Johnson also worked for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the United States Air Force. After reading this book (which has great illustrations as well), I couldn’t believe I had never heard of Johnson, and I immediately wanted to know more. (And as a bonus, both of my kids were riveted by the entire book, couldn’t believe the things he’d invented, and immediately started talking about what they wanted to invent.) I think any kid, or adult, would enjoy this book, and especially kids who enjoy building with Legos or like to invent things.