November 1, 2014

~posted by Ruth

NateI have a special fondness for the series Nate the Great.  My own Nate the Great was born the same year as Marjorie Weinman Sharmat created the original character:  1977.  Though we called him Nathan (and now Uncle Nathan aka Uncle Hub),  the connection was strong.  Even as a little boy, Nathan was like our hero Nate with his ironic wit, clever detective skills, and yes, love of pancakes.

So it was with great pleasure I noted the publication this year  of the latest in Sharmat’s long-running series for beginning readers:  Nate the Great Where Are You? and decided to check it out after all these years.  And the good news is, it is as wonderful as ever!  Nate, of course, still relies on his canine sidekick Sludge, and the familiar characters are in on their latest case, which ends up multiplying into several mysteries, all needing Nate’s immediate attention. Rosamond is as odd as ever, Annie is still obsessing over her dog Fang (whose toothpaste is missing), and Claude’s request adds to the tangled case.

If you are new to this series, check out the original Nate the Great and share this and the many other Nate the Great adventures with the young readers in your life.

Scotland and England: National Tell a Story Day is October 27th

October 26, 2014

SelkieScots and Brits celebrate National Story Telling Day on October 27th.  Why not join in the fun?  Of course, we here in the United States have a day devoted to the wonders and power of telling stories, but that’s way off in April, on the 27th, too as it happens.  Since the two holidays are exactly 6 months apart, we’ve decided to honor both and delight in this celebration twice a year instead of once only.

Invite this tradition into your home as well.  Fall is the perfect time for spooky stories, and you can set the mood  by turning down the lights and holding flashlights under your chin.  What stories to tell?  There are plenty of mysterious and eerie fairy tales and myths and legends from the British Isles.

FinnYou might want to check out Scotland’s Storytelling Center.  We especially love the resources on Scotland’s Stories where you can find stories of the selkies, the Wee Bannock, and of course, Finn MacCool.

If you prefer your story telling to be a traditional readaloud, you might try out these Scottish stories in picture book form.  This is just a start.  Enjoy!

Seal-childrenThe Seal Children by Jackie Morris

Welsh artist and writer Jackie Morris is the perfect author to bring this legend to life in the pages of a picture book.  The selkie myth of a half-human/half seal race who interact on occasion with humans is one of hope and love, separation and loss.  Beautifully told in words and pictures, we see the Welsh village and sea through the eyes of the seal children Ffion and Morlo.  You’ll want to delve into Morris’ other tales once you’ve read this one!


DragonThe Dragon Stoorworm by Theresa Breslin

Scottish writer Theresa Breslin weaves a brilliant and (I’m told) authentic tale about the “very first, very worst Dragon that ever lived.”  He was so enormous, he was almost as big as all of Scotland!  Who will save the Princess Gemdelovely frombeing eaten?  Only the bravest will attempt it; none who face him have ever returned.  But the Princess, together with Gentle Assipattle, can free all of Scotland.   The illustrations are simply magical, and the story told with wit and grace.  Brand new!  Don’t miss it!

Celebrating Board Games and Family Fun

October 18, 2014

Board-GamesThe Book of Classic Board Games

by Klutz Press

What are the classic board games you remember from your childhood?  For me, it’s go, checkers,  and backgammon.  Imagine a spiral bound transportable heavy duty book that opens to create the boards you need, paired with easy-to-follow rules and directions for play.  Even the game pieces and dice are included, so you’re good to go.  Besides being re-introduced to family favorites, I’ll bet you’ll also find some new games to try out.  There are 15 games in all.  Great if you love games–and perfect if you have a family board games night!

October is National Pizza Month!

October 13, 2014

PizzaWhenever we make bets or throw out challenges to Jacob, we are pretty confident of the prize he’ll choose:  PIZZA!  We owed him several pizza nights last summer, which led to us finding some great pizza spots here in Portland.  In honor of Jacob, we’ll be celebrating Pizza month this year throughout the month of October.

SecretSecret Pizza Party by Adam Rubin

“Ah, pizza… So beautiful, you could hang it on the wall of a museum. So convenient you could eat it in the bathtub.” Nobody loves Pizza like Raccoon (except maybe Jacob!).  But not so easy for a forlorn Raccoon to get his paws on, especially from his nemesis The Pizza Man, who chases him off  from the Pizza Parlor with a broom.   But Raccoon is a clever one, and devises a heist in order to throw a secret pizza party. He succeeds in capturing the pizza, but what fun is it to eat alone?  Luckily he finds people (wearing zany masks) to share in his party.  Another whacky picture book from the author of Dragon Loves Tacos.


PizzaPizza at Sally’s  by Monica Wellington

A terrific book to tie into the local farming movement.  Sally grows her own tomatoes, buys locally made cheese, and makes her pizza from scratch.  Not just politically correct, though–kids love this brightly illustrated, easy-reader format book.  Sally herself is  cheerful and friendly, and the pizza process is delightfully explained.  You’ll be ready for a big slice when you finsih reading this with your kids!


Red-HenThe Little Red Hen Makes a Pizza by Philomen Sturgess, illustrated by Amy Walrod

What happens when the Little Red Hen decided not to bake bread, but a pizza instead?  That’s the premise of this retelling of the Chicken Licken tale.  Like the original Little Red Hen, her friends are no help to her, always giving her the expected reply: “Not I,” said the duck donning her swim cap and tube. “Not I,” said the dog wearing a box of dog biscuits and a party hat. “Not I,” said the hep blue cat playing the saxophone. If you think the original moral is important to the story, you’ll be a bit disappointed.  Personally, I appreciate the fact that Little Red decides to share with her friends anyway and guilt-trips them into helping her clean up.  The illustrations are hilarious and appealing to kids and adults alike.

WINGS AND CO: Perfect Readaloud for Young Readers

October 5, 2014

~posted by Ruth

Three-Pickled-HerringsEarlier this year, I recommended some terrific new readalouds for young readers.  Operation Bunny was one favorite:

Operation-BunnyOperation Bunny:  Book One (Wings & Co.) by Sally Gardner, illustrated by David Roberts

If you’re looking for a magical world with its own set of internal reality, written with literary integrity, and a great sense of humor, this is the series for you! Young Emily Vole has as horrific a young childhood as Harry Potter, with parents who start out adopting her as an infant, then turn her into a housekeeper and nanny when their triplets are born.  Luckily, her elderly neighbor Miss String befriends her and teaches her history, German—and magic. She also finds herself depending on a talking cat and a grumpy fairy detective to help save the fairies from the wicked witch.  Emily becomes a no-nonsense and very brave detective who specializes in magical crimes.  The first of what promises to be a delightful series!


It turns out I was right.  This summer, we read together the next two books in the series and just can’t wait for Book #4 to arrive from Great Britain.  After the first book, Molly took to announcing her pleasure by exclaiming, “Capital!” (as Miss String does).  Both kids love to be referred to as “my little ducks,” and can be heard asserting, “Spot on the fishcake!” like their book friend Fidget the talking cat.  The British dialect and humor are contagious!

So if you’re looking for a readaloud series to capture your young readers’ interest, look no further.  Here’s a taste of books 2 and 3:

Three-PickledThree Pickled Herrings:  Book Two (Wings & Co.)  by Sally Gardner, illustrated by David Roberts

Some old friends as well as new ones in the second in the series.  Emily, Fidget, and the fairy detectives are all set to take on their cases, but have no clients. . .at first.  Suddenly, they have three new cases (the “three pickled herrings” of the title).  It seems “fairy meddling” is afoot.  What else could explain  Mr. Rollo the Tailor’s bad luck that causes him to lose everything?  Or Pan Smith’s incredible run of good luck, then on her wedding eve, to have it all turn to disaster?  And what caused Sir Walter Cross’s untimely death?  What about that magic umbrella?  Fantastic humor, capital vocabulary, and magical adventures.


VanishingThe Vanishing of Billy Buckle:  Book Three (Wings & Co.) by Sally Gardner, illustrated by David Roberts

Squat on the squid!  The fairy detectives are back on the case, and this may be their most trying case yet! A missing Giant, caring for a his huge–and immensely talented–daughter.  Which brings us to the confusing and complex TV talent show.  Oh, and the fairy detective house picks up and moves to the seashore.  Throw in an evil shape-shifter, a fortune telling fairy with only half her wings, and you start to get the picture.  We continue to absolutely love Fidget the cat and his many witticisms and British dialogue.

Stay tuned for Book Four:   The Matchbox Mysteries, due out in the UK in October!

Name Your Car Day, October 2nd

September 26, 2014

Car-bookHave you ever named your car? October 2nd is the perfect day to do it. Why not name your car after a  favorite literary character?  We know one Jane Austin fan who named her car Fitzwilliam, after Mr. Darcy, and another who found Molly a fitting name after reading Harry Potter and the Deadly Hollows.  After all, her car, like Molly, was “little, red, and feisty.”  We just traded in our ten-year-old Prius for a newer version and are desperately seeking names.  Any suggestions?

To complement your celebration of Name Your Car Day, you might like to read a book or two about cars that are the main character–and yes, they have delicious names.  Enjoy–and Happy Name Your Car Day!

The-CarThe Car by Gary Paulesen

A terrific novel by one of our favorite YA authors.  Middle and high schoolers appreciate the honesty and realistic characters in Paulsen’s work, and The Car is no exception. Abandoned by parents who leave each other at the same time, fourteen-year-old Terry completes a car kit his father had begun and decides to drive across the country to Oregon.  He encounters Vietnam War vet Waylon en route, who joins him in his adventure. Yes, the car has a a name; Terry calls it “cat” since it is a Blakely Bearcat.  A well-written and thoughtful coming of age novel.


ChittyChitty Chitty Bang Bang:  The Magical Car by Ian Fleming, illustrated by John Burningham

We urge you to try out this illustrated version, the original one. It’s in keeping with the very British Ian Fleming’s writing. (Of course, readers know he is best known for this adult series of James Bond spy novels).  Though there has also been a popular movie with the same title, trust me, they are very different stories!  This one is the true classic. In this tale, the Potts family recognizes the magic of a special car.  Though she is rusted and cracked, they lovingly restore her to her former glory as a beautiful touring car.  Her name, of course, is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for the glorious noises she makes.  She’s a flying, floating, drive-by-herself automobile that takes the Potts family on many adventures. Humor and adventure galore!  Check out the 50th anniversary edition, just out!

New Series: THE ATLANTIS SAGA by T.A. Barron

September 20, 2014

Atlantis-RisingAtlantis Rising by T.A. Barron

Children’s literature lovers know Thomas A. Barron from his much-loved series such as The Lost Years of Merlin and The Great Tree of Avalon, among other wonderful reading adventures.  We were honored to preview his new book, the beginning of a new saga, due out on September 26th.  His staunch advocacy of nature comes across loud and clear in all his books, and we appreciate the underlying messages about conservation and environmental awareness that continue in this new series.

So much to love about this book!  First of all, the characters.  Promi is a cheerful, kind-hearted, and clever street thief and accomplished knife-thrower.  He lives by his wits and skills, and is especially drawn to sweet treats and aggravating those in power.  Deputy High Priest Grukarr is an especially evil–and powerful–target for our young hero.  Enter Atlanta, a girl of magical powers and an understanding and great love of the natural world.  The tale of the formation of Atlantis is framed as a classic tale of the struggle between Good and Evil, as Promi and Atlanta band together to save Ellegandia.  Magic, mystery, adventure, and a hint of romance make this novel a winner for middle-school readers, and older ones, too!


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