Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Mary Downing Hahn

Titles:  Closed for the Season; Wait till Helen Comes

Author:  Mary Downing Hahn

Rating:  *  (1 star out of 3 possible)
             Recommended with Reservations

Audience:  Middle School

Hahn's writing (plot, character development) is top notch.  She does not write down to children, nor is she sentimental or sappy.  She understands their relationships, personalities, real fears and imagined worries.  She is a well-known and well-respected author for middle schoolers.  About half her books cover the challenges of growing up, while the other half or more deal with the supernatural.  Parents will want to know which half their kids are bringing home!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Jean Craighead George 1919-2012

Titles include over 100 youth and children's books:

           My Side of the Mountain/On the Far Side of the
           Mountain/Frightful's Mountain
           Julie of the Wolves/Julie/Julie's Wolfpack
           Ecological Mystery Series  (Case of the Missing
           Cutthroat/Who Really Killed Cock Robin/
           Missing Gator of Gumbo Limbo)
           There's an Owl in the Shower
           Charlie's Raven
           The Tarantula in My Purse and 172 Other Wild Pets

Audience:  3rd Grade and up for chapter books
                   Preschool and up for picture books

Rating:  **  (2 stars out of 3 possible, "B")

From time to time I need to locate a large number of books to keep my 6th grader busy and happy.  Generally this occurs during the summer and any school vacations/early releases.  This past spring seemed an ideal time to check out 12-15 Jean Craighead George books.  We had already read My Side of the Mountain together which I remembered as one of the few books from my childhood I could enjoy over and over.

My Side of the Mountain, sometimes called a modern-day Robinson Crusoe, fascinated me because it plausibly presented a situation where a young teenager could move to the wild and successfully fend for himself.  I was briefly obsessed with the idea of living in the woods:  fashioning my own fishhooks and leather breeches, grinding acorns for pancakes, taming wild animals to keep me company.  I lived in northern Minnesota at the time, so it didn't seem too much of a stretch for the imagination.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Soup Series

Titles:  Soup; Soup and Me; Soup for President; Soup's Drum; Soup on Wheels; Soup in the Saddle; Soup's Goat; Soup on Ice; Soup on Fire; Soup's Uncle; Soup's Hoop; Soup in Love; Soup Ahoy; Soup 1776.

Author:  Robert Newton Peck

Rating:  **  (2 stars out of 3 possible, "B")

Audience:  Third Grade and Up

This series was just what the doctor ordered for some fun and funny summer reading for our family.  If your child is having trouble getting excited about reading, try these short and engaging, as well as instructive books.

Written between the 1970s and 1990s, Robert Newton Peck takes us back to his rural Vermont upbringing during the 1940s for some mischievous, good-natured adventures.  He proves the straight man to his best friend Soup (don't call him Luther Wesley) who has plenty of wacky ideas.

The Inheritance Cycle

Titles:   Eragon; Eldest; Brisingr; Inheritance

Author:  Christopher Paolini

Rating:  *  (1 star out of 3 possible, "C")
             Recommended with Reservations

Audience:  High School

This series represents a fine freshman effort by a young author, although I would say each book is at least 100 pages too long.  The books rely heavily on magical machinations, which is to say plot is usually advanced by sorcerers, spell-casting and fortune-telling, along with a large dose of mind control and ESP, not to mention some violent battle scenes.  Thus it must be recommended with reservations:  for teenagers and families who don't mind magical influence in the epic battle between good and evil.