Greek Gods and Goddesses for Kids

February 6, 2016

hestiaYou can tell your family is totally obsessed with the Greek Gods and Goddesses when they choose their email  names based on their favorite.  (And for Molly, that would be Hestia, Goddess of family, hearth and home).   Or when the favorite family game of choice is the fast-paced math game “Zeus on the Loose,” (which Jacob zeuswould be willing to play for hours on end.)

What sparked this preoccupation with all things Greek mythology?  You won’t be surprised to learn it’s Rick Riordan’s award-winning and best-selling series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians (Known to our family as The Lightening Thief series for the splendid and captivating first book of that title.)

We are very confident in recommending this as a perfect family read-aloud to introduce your tweens and teens (and even early readers. . . ) to this terrific series of tales.  No doubt about it, you and your family will be hooked and sucked into reading the entire series. You’ll need to make some rules about reading ahead if you don’t want spoilers to abound, as kids we know can’t help but talk about the surprising twists and turns. For those who enjoy these chapter books for their independent reading, it will be tough to wait for the next evening’s read aloud installment.

So in the meantime, for readers who want to enjoy the lives of the gods on their own,  may we recommend the following two series?

Goddess-girlsGoddess Girls by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams

Did you ever wonder what it was like for the pre-teen Goddess set?  Luckily, Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams have!  This is a perfect read-on-your own series (I estimate for 3rd though 7th graders).  It’s helpful to start with the first book in the series ( Athena the Brain ) to enter the world of Goddess girls and understand the context.  Athena, Goddess of Wisdom, has always known she’s a smart cookie, but is surprised when she is whisked away to Mt. Olympus Academy–and a bit nervous about fitting in and dealing with her dad (Zeus, of course).  But she becomes great friends with (most of) the other girl goddesses and godboys.  Of course there is the occasional mean girl (Medusa). . .Luckily, she excels in her studies and activities, meeting challenges in Hero-ology by ending the Trojan Wars, for example.  A light touch on the Greek myths and the relationship of the goddesses to each other.  Fun reading!  And definitely addictive.

AND

heroesHeroes in Training by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams

Zeus and the Thunderbolt of Doom is the first book of this series with the Greek Gods as pre-teens.  Here we meet Zeus as a 10-year-old who is darn sick of getting hit by lightening every single year. In a clever re-interpretation of the origin myths of the Greeks, Zeus is kidnapped by the Titans to set a chain of events into play.  He sets off on a quest to rescue his youthful fellow Olympians from the evil Cronus. Armed with his trusty thunderbolt (named Bolt, of course), Zeus is on an adventure of a lifetime–and a journey to fulfill his destiny as King of the Gods. The series is lots of fun, and as addictive as the Girl Goddesses.

Of course, other resources abound, and we’ll be blogging about them soon.  But while you’re waiting for our posts, we suggest you dip into the two following resources (and terrific coffee table books):

DaulairesD’Aulaires Book of Greek Myths by Ingri and Edgar D’Aulaires

This over-sized picture book has introduced  at least a couple of generations to the Greek Gods over the last 50 years. The illustrations capture young readers’ imaginations, and the tales are more engagingly written than other retellings we’ve come across.  Even pre-readers can look through the pages and be mesmerized and eager to hear the stories that go with the pictures.

*

RickPercy Jackson’s Greek Gods by Rick Riordan, illustrated by John Rocco

Written from Percy’s insider point of view, this compilation of the Greek Gods and Greek mythology is awesome!  He explains how the world was created, then gives readers his personal take on a who’s who of ancients, from Apollo to Zeus. Percy does not hold back. “If you like horror shows, blood baths, lying, stealing, backstabbing, and cannibalism, then read on, because it definitely was a Golden Age for all that.”  Love the sarcastic asides.  A must-have resource for lovers of Rick Riordan’s take on the Greek Gods.

~~~~


February is Grapefruit Month!

January 29, 2016

 

grapefruitWhat fruit is one of the most healthy treats you can savor?  The grapefruit, of course! February is a terrific time to focus on the pleasures of eating this fine fruit as Febuary is Grapefruit Month!  Lucky for me, my family members are already fans.  It’s Molly and Jacob and Meghan’s–not to mention my–favorite!  You might want to share Grapefruit’s Health Benefits with your family. And if you need a few recipes to try out this month, check out these ideas.

Oh, and of course you’ll want to bring the theme into your reading diet as well.

poppletonPoppleton and Friends by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Mark Teague

If your early reader is a Poppleton fan (and who isn’t?!), then this collection of short stories is perfect to welcome in the month of February and a celebration of Grapefruit!  I’ve always loved the Poppleton books as introductions to the genre of short stories and to chapter books for early readers (and as read-alouds for the slightly younger set).  When I realized that February is officially dedicated to my favorite fruit, I remembered that one of the Poppleton stories looks at Poppleton’s own introduction to the powers of grapefruit: Poppleton hears on TV that eating grapefruit can increase one’s lifespan. No spoilers here, but the puckerish taste of the fruit is a bit of a surprise to our hero.   This is a wonderful, easy-to-read chapter book that will leave children laughing out loud.

 

 


WAITING by Kevin Henkes: A Review

January 23, 2016

WaitingWaiting by Kevin Henkes

Waiting is one those special books by a favorite author that meets your expectations, even if they are very high.  It’s a quiet, but engaging book about an aspect of childhood we all remember–and see daily with our kids:  the difficulty and importance of waiting.  An owl, a puppy, a bear, a rabbit, and a pig—all toys arranged on a child’s windowsill—wait for marvelous things to happen in this incredible book.  These friends sit together–companionably and happily–simply waiting, each for something different.  The owl is waiting for the moon. The pig is waiting for the rain. The bear is waiting for the wind. The puppy is waiting for the snow. And the rabbit is just looking out the window because he likes to wait! What will happen?

There is a remarkable zen-like quality to this book, and the children we’ve shared it with easily slide into the mood.  It’s a great lead-in for conversations about waiting, too.  The toddlers and early readers in your life will appreciate a quiet moment in your lap or curled up in a chair with this special book.

 

 


Little Red Riding Hood Revisited: Check out CLOAKED IN RED by Vivian Vande Velde

January 16, 2016

We confess, we are big fans of fairy tales, and especially the many variations on Little Red Riding Hood.  Readers of Lit for Kids may have noticed a trend over the years, with blog posts like:

Little Red Riding Hoods: A Book Flight

Little Red Riding Hood Around the World

Red-Riding-HoodSo we were especially pleased to see Vivian Vande Velde’s slim collection of stories for tweens and teens Cloaked in Red.  It’s a lot of fun for kids familiar with the well-loved and oft-told tale seeing what can happen with the story in the hands of a creative and accomplished author like Velde.  The Author’s Note is a perfect preface for the collection of short stories that retell the story of Little Red Riding Hood.  First, the author looks at the face of the story and how–well–strange it is:  “Everyone knows the story of Little Red Riding Hood, the girl with the unfortunate name and the inability to tell the difference between her grandmother and a member of a different species.”  She goes on to point out the many things that make it “the exact opposite of a good story.”  So she takes up the challenge to write eight new versions to make it better.  And we’re so glad she did!  Within the tales, Velde takes a swipe at fashion, family dysfunction, secrets and histories, and so much more.  (Including the hapless Brothers Grimm.)

So dig in and enjoy yourself with this entertaining book–and add it to your collection of Little Red Riding Hood tales to savor.

 

 

 

 


Appreciate a Dragon Day: January 16th

January 10, 2016

DragonOur Jacob has chosen the dragon as his spirit animal, so it feels very fitting to celebrate with family a special day in January:  Appreciate a Dragon Day!  So many great books to choose from, at all age levels.  But we decided on one that the whole family can enjoy together:

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

We aren’t the only ones who love this book–it was awarded a Newbery Honor Book a couple of years ago.  The main character, Minli, grows up with folktales of the Jade Dragon, and the Old Man on the Moon, who knows all the answers to Life’s questions. She decides to set off to ask the Old Man’s help in answering questions that will help her change her family’s fortunes. She meets many creatures who help her on her quest, but our favorite is the Dragon.  Something about this tale reminds us of The Wizard of Oz. . .  Perfect for young readers to enjoy as a read-aloud, or elementary age readers to read on their own, the story has a way of grabbing older kids (and adults) as well, with the typical gorgeous illustrations Grace Lin is known for, as well as the wondrous story of friendship and adventure.   And the writing is simply elegant in this enchanting tale.  Highly recommended!


Celebrate Sherlock Holmes’ Birthday, with the Young Sherlock

January 2, 2016

Death-CloudDid you know that Sherlock Holmes’ birthday is January 6th?  Yes, yes, we know he is a fictional character, but still, Sherlockian scholars agree on his birthday and celebrations occur worldwide in his honor.  Looking for info on the history and gatherings?  The blog The City Room posted a piece a few years ago we found fascinating:  The Curious Case of a Birthday for Sherlock.

One great way to celebrate is  by dipping into a delicious series that focuses on the teen-aged Sherlock:  Sherlock Holmes: The Legend Begins by Andrew Lane.  I read  the first book Death Cloud when it came out in 2011, and loved it–then forgot about it until recently, wondering if Andrew Lane continued the series.  Turns out he did, and the sixth book in the series just came out in December:  Knife Edge.   So it seems I have some catching up to do. . .

What I loved about Death Cloud and why I am eager to pick up where I left off:

I love imagining Sherlock Holmes as a 14-year-old, beginning to hone his deductive skills–and already tackling sinister villains who are very clever in their own right.  We also learn back story for Sherlock–his friends, his school, his family.  I appreciate discovering the genesis of his logical mind, the boxing and sword-fighting, the love of music and of playing the violin in particular.  The story itself is a good adventure as well as a detective story, with twists and turns, kidnappings, and even a bit of romance.

I imagine teens reading this series and being intrigued enough to dig into the Arthur Conan Doyle originals–where a whole treasure trove of adventures await them.

 

 


MAX THE BRAVE by Ed Vere: New Picture Book for Young Readers

December 26, 2015

MaxMax the Brave by Ed Vere

As you can see, Max is one brave and courageous little kitty (scowl and cape and all!).  He is eager to prove that bravery by living his destiny:  chasing mice.  Unfortunately, he is a little kitty who doesn’t yet know the world well enough to know what a mouse looks like.  And to add to his misfortune, he gets some very bad advice from a very savvy mouse.  On the way to his discovery, he asks a variety of animals for help.  Toddler readers I have shared this book with  love the mistakes Max makes, and as an adult, I get a kick out of the humor and off-beat expressions of the animals.  I see this brand new book as an “instant classic” for the very young–and possibly a good teaching tool for early readers to look at the pictures and make inferences.


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