Children’s Books About the Middle East: Update

September 3, 2016

There are many many more books about the  Middle East for children and adolescents, with more published each year.  Unfortunately, they are not often highlighted in the media, and it requires investigation to find out about them.  We’ve posted lists of titles from this part of world in the past.  If you missed them, this is a great time to check them out:

Middle East YA Recommendations

Middle East Books for Tweens and Teens

Picture Books:  Understanding the Middle East

Recently, some new titles have emerged that we can recommend for your information–and for your reading pleasure:

TurtleThe Turtle of Oman by Naomi Shihab Nye

Just out in May (2016), this is a novel you”ll want on your bookshelf.  Poet and novelist Naomi Shihab Nye writes with sensitivity and lyrical prose in this novel for tween and teen readers about a young boy, Aref Al-Amri.  In his move from Muscat, Oman to  Ann Arbor, Michigan, he must prepare for a whole new life, one that will not include his school, his friends, or his beloved Grandfather, Sidi. In protest, he refuses to pack his suitcase.  Rather than force him to pack, his mother calls on Sidi for help.  Sidi takes Aref for an overnight camping trip, fishing on the Indian Ocean and memorably, to visit a nesting ground for many kinds of turtles.  The story has warmth and humor, and is also a very touching story about the bond between grandfather and grandson.  This book is a wonderful antidote to viewing immigrants with suspicion and fear and serves window into another country and culture.


Arabian-NightsThe Arabian Nights by Wafa’ Tarnowska Carole Henaff

It’s difficult to find good translations of the stories of the Arabian Nights.  This one is a keeper, written by Lebanese author Wafa’ Tarnowska Carole Henaff. The edition is notable for combining favorites such as ‘Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp’ with less familiar tales such as ‘The Diamond Anklet’ and ‘The Speaking Bird and the Singing Tree.’ Beautiful illustrations make this a collection worth owning, and poring over with elementary and middle school children as a wonderful read-aloud. A fitting introduction to this classic Syrian literature, written in the 14th century.

Book Scavenger: Great Readaloud for Tweens

August 26, 2016

BookBook Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman

A unique new series (2 books)  with shades of the Blue Balliett art mysteries, a touch of Willie Wonka, and of course, Ellen Raskin’s The Westing Games.  Add that it is an intriguing book-based literary puzzler, and we’re hooked. The star of the series is twelve-year-old Emily, on the road with her family.  She becomes an eager participant in an online gaming community where participants hide books in public places and reveal the locations through encoded clues.  The creator, Garrison Griswald, has just announced his latest game, when he is (gasp!) kidnapped.  Since Emily is conveniently in San Francisco, Griswald’s home base, at the time of the kidnapping, it falls to her and her new friend James to figure out the clues and literary allusions to solve the mystery.  Though tweens and early adolescents can read it themselves, it’s still a terrific family readaloud.

August 26th is National Dog Day!

August 20, 2016

DogAugust 26th is National Dog Day!  Read all about it at the National Dog Day site. 

Here’s a brief description: “National Dog Day celebrates all dogs, mixed breed and pure. Our mission is to help galvanize the public to recognize the number of dogs that need to be rescued each year and acknowledges family dogs and dogs that work selflessly each day to save lives, keep us safe and bring comfort.”

As dog lovers ourselves, we have dedicated posts to our furry friends in the past.  In case you missed them, you might check out:

October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month

Dog Days:  A Book Flight

For some more fun with the toddlers and early readers in your life, we also present two new terrific picture books with enchanting dog characters.  Enjoy!

HudsonHudson in Provence by Jackie Clark Mancuso

Paris in August is as hot as well, Portland or LA in August.  So our friend Hudson, that adorable pup, is able to escape to the south of France–Provence, to be exact.  As a city dog, he is eager to be helpful, but he doesn’t seem suited to country work:  he fails to sniff out truffles, and isn’t able to herd sheep.  He even has difficulty pedaling a bike when he gets into the Tour de France!  But he remains a lovable and engaging hero. A charming story about a sweet ex-Pat dog.



MaxMax the Flying Sausage Dog: A Tail from London by Arthur Robins

A Magical, laugh-out loud book, fun for those being read to–and readers–alike. It’s a tough choice for Tom, when he can only choose one dog from the pound to bring home as a pet.  But he chooses well in Max, who turns out to have some let’s just say special talents that Tom must keep from his family.  Sweet illustrations that seem very British (think Quentin Blake).  In fact, a great book to invoke your British accent as you read.  Quirky and lovable characters, not to mention heart-warming moments. A wonderful celebration of dogs and their human families.


New Books for Toddlers That Parents Enjoy Reading

August 13, 2016

Read-aloudSummer evenings are perfect for readalouds, with children of all ages.  Looking for recommendations for the youngest set?  Look no further!  These are fun for readers (adults and older siblings) and listeners alike.

poor-little-guyPoor Little Guy by Elanna Allen

I always love the books where the pictures take center stage and the few words reinforce the story.  Think Mo Willems and Jon Klassen.  And now, Elanna Allen. In this tale, the “poor little guy” is a small (but stylish in his hip glasses!) fish who is captured by a larger octopus.  The little yellow fish then becomes “Catch of the Day” to that octopus who playfully bats him around. Spoiler alert:  The little guy is a puffer fish who leaves the octopus with painful spines in his mouth.  Perfect for toddler rereadings, looking at the expressions of the various characters.


Inter-ChiockenInterrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein

I love this book!  And not just because I love all things chicken, or because we are chicken-sitting for our neighbor’s 3 adorable chicks. It’s a playful and funny story about a familiar bedtime ritual: story time.  In a kind of story-within-a story, Little Red Chicken can’t help herself from interrupting and “warning” the characters in the tales her Papa is reading. She is so involved in the stories that she can’t help but let Hansel and Gretel know about the impending danger in the Gingerbread House, or Chicken Little that “it’s only an acorn.”  I also love the invented spellings and drawings when Little Red Chicken creates her own story.  Another delightful book to share.


Finding-WildFinding Wild by Megan Wagner Lloyd, illustrated by Abigail Halpin

What does wildness mean?  And where can you find it?  “Sometimes wild is so tiny, you have to squint to see it,” the narrator tell us.  “And then there are times you can’t possibly miss it.”  The illustrations magically meld with the words to create vivid sensuous images and emotions, as readers are invited to smell the tangy salty sea air, smell the desert air, and taste the minty herbs.  It teems with the energy of the wild and of life itself and the adventure of exploring.

SPACE CASE (Moon Base Alpha) by Stuart Gibbs

August 6, 2016

Space-CaseSpace Case by Stuart Gibbs

Humor? Check. Suspense?  Check. Outer Space?  Check.  Murder mystery?  Yup, that, too.  And good reviews as well.  In fact, The New York Times Book Review called the book “a delightful and brilliantly constructed middle grade thriller.”  And we agree. Our young hero, Dashiell Gibson, lives on Moon Base Alpha, and is famous in this world for being one of the first humans to live on the moon.  Sounds like an exciting life, right?  Well, no.  Poor Dashiell.  He is bored out of his mind, trapped inside the cramped base because kids aren’t allowed out on the surface of the moon. And the only other kid his age on the base is the moon’s version of a couch potato, glued to the virtual reality of his video games.  What’s a young wanna be space explorer to do? When one of the base scientists turns up dead, it’s up to Dash to take on the case because no one else believes it is murder. This thriller/murder mystery is great for space enthusiasts; each chapter is preceded by a reading from “The Official Residents’ Guide to Moon Base Alpha,” NASA’s part propaganda/part instruction manual, containing such riveting topics as “Exercise” and “Food” (based on actual science). A fun futuristic read!.

And when you finish this exciting adventure, you can immediately read Spaced Out, book 2 in the Moon Base Alpha Series. Happy Reading!


July 30, 2016

mooseThis Moose Belongs to Me by Oliver Jeffers

Oliver Jeffers, author of  Once Upon an Alphabet and The Incredible Book-Eating Boy, is one of our favorite authors.  We recently re-discovered one of his books published a couple of years ago and sent it to a young family member who recommended that we share it with our readers.  So we are delighted to suggest, for your summer reading pleasure:  This Moose Belongs to Me.

When Wilfred crosses paths with a moose, he is pleased–because it just so happens, he has been wanting a pet. He names his new pet Marcel, and teaches him to be the perfect pet. Well, tries to teach him. Wilfred is after all, a rule follower and expects the same of Marcel.  But Marcel shakes off these instructions and is himself, and doesn’t think he belongs to anyone.  Their journey together as they become friends is a hilarious, fun-filled adventure. As you would expect, the illustrations are gorgeous, not to mention funny. Great for pre-schoolers as a read-aloud, and for early readers to enjoy on their own–and with their friends!

CASTLE HANGNAIL by Ursula Vernon: A Recommendation for Tweens

July 23, 2016

Castle-HangnailCastle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon

Ursula Vernon is the beloved author of some terrific series (like Dragonbreath,and my personal favorite Hamster Princess).  Her latest book features Molly (great name!), a young witch (12 years old) with a list of tasks to perform.  Hmm, sounds all too familiar.  But in the hands of Vernon, it takes on interesting twists and turns, and moral dilemmas.  Molly is the new master of Castle Hangnail, and must perform wicked tasks to keep the castle from being removed.  She wants to be a Wicked Witch, sure. . .but an Evil witch?  Not so much. She also has a lot of grown-up problems, like not being sure she is competent at her job, and being responsible for many others, as well as saving the castle.  It’s a quirky book, with depth and humor, and an engrossing read for tweens and early adolescents. Great illustrations sprinkled throughout the book, too.  And so many more Ursula Vernon books if this one suits you fancy!