Here are a few great books I’ve read for kids—ages toddler through young adult.
And don’t forget to check out the books I’ve written for kids–under the tab above “BOOKS: TEACHER RESOURCES.” Although the publisher sells them for teachers to use in classrooms, the content is written to be read and used by kids.
Bound by Guilt
Author: C.J. Darlington
I loved the title of this book, Bound by Guilt by C.J. Darlington. The setup of this book is a mother, son and foster daughter who the mother uses to steal rare books. But when a man is killed during a robbery gone bad, main character, Roxi Gold escapes the only safe “home” she has known.
But a 16-year old on her own has no money and no rights. Fearing the law, she is faced with a decision about leaving the only “home” she has known to escape from being forced to continue what she knows is wrong. Roxi’s fear combines with guilt over her involvement in a crime, her sense of inadequacy as a person, taking on responsibility for her mother’s abandonment when she was a child.
When Roxi is taken in by a Christian couple, she begins to find peace, until police and the foster mother come looking for her. Could all the promises she’s heard about God’s love and forgiveness possibly apply to Roxi? Or will she be bound by guilt forever?
Author: Pamela S. Turner
Non-fiction, ages 10-12
Crow Smarts: Inside the Brain of the World’s Brightest Bird by Pamela S. Turner is the latest in HMH’s Scientists in the Field series.
In this book, Turner takes us along with scientist and wildlife conservationist Gavin Hunt to New Caledonia where we discover how wild crows both create and use tools in everyday life. Readers get to tag along with Hunt and Turner as they follow Little Feather, Lefty, Munin and other wild crows, learning about the life of crows, how the information Hunt is learning relates to the workings of our human brains and a bit about life in the South Pacific.
One of the great things about the Scientists in the Field series is that the books also give us a glimpse of what a scientist does in his particular area of study. In Crow Smarts, we specifically see up close a wildlife conservationist, which makes the science and the career more engaging, interesting and relevant to young readers.
Crow Smarts is the fifth book in the Scientist in the Field Series by Turner. Other titles by her in the series are Gorilla Doctors, The Frog Scientist, Project Seahorse and The Dolphins of Shark Bay.
The volume of photographs by Andy Comins and additional helpful illustrations, along with Turner’s clear and entertaining writing style make this book both an enjoyable and educational read. Curriculum opportunities relate to grades 5-7, making the book an excellent choice for classrooms, school libraries and home schooling.
Jingle the Brass
Author: Patricia Newman
Illustrator: Michael Chesworth
Subjects: History, Jargon, Trains, Transportation, Travel, Transcontinental Railroad, Industrial Revolution, Intergenerational communication. Glossary at the end includes historical details
Step back in time to Ruby’s rail yard hash house and put on the nosebag with the boss hogger. He’ll tell you he likes his eggs with headlights, but if you want scrambled, just order wreck on the main line. Follow him as he and his ashcat warm up engine #417 at the roundhouse, give her a drink at the water tower, and hitch her up to a jigger. Jingle the brass as the rods start flashing!
Featured in an article in the May 2005 issue of ALA’s Booklinks magazine, Jingle the Brass was described as outstanding literature, lending [itself] to many classroom applications. This engaging picture book effectively shows how specific words are a joy to both the ear and the imagination. A Junior Library Guild Selection Publisher’s Weekly says, “Newman’s text unspools as a lingo-filled monologue by the wizened engineer; she smoothly weaves in more than 50 railroading words and phrases, while providing an insider’s view of working on the rails. . .Readers will undoubtedly demand a return trip very soon.” School Library Journal says, Michael Chesworth’s pictures and the text match beautifully. People and machines have lots of movement, personality, and historical flavor.¨
SCHOOL VISIT INFORMATION Contact Patricia Newman at firstname.lastname@example.org www.patriciamnewman.com
PRE-READING ACTIVITIES TO ACTIVATE PRIOR KNOWLEDGE (all ages)
1) Talk about the different people who work on a train. What are their jobs? Why are they important? Examples¡Xengineer, fireman, brakeman, track worker, conductor, dispatcher.
2) Find out how much your students know about the functions of different railroad cars. Examples: locomotive, hopper, refrigerator car, caboose, engine, oil can, livestock car.
3) Discuss why trains are important. Hypothesize how a locomotive hooks up to the rest of the train and how two locomotives might share one track.
John Muir and Stickeen: An Alaskan Adventure
Author: Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff
Illustrator: Karl Swanson
Here are activities written by author Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff that teach kids about science, geography and art. These activities go along with her book JOHN MUIR AND STICKEEN: AN ALASKAN ADVENTURE (Millbrook/Lerner, 2003).
Nonfiction Picture Book Curriculum Guide by KatzConnects Literacy
Before reading or discussing the book, have all children (K-5) make ecologically sound journals from reused materials. For each journal you’ll need: pencil, small piece (4″x6″ works well), cardboard or tag board, several pieces of scrap paper, hole punch and rubber band.
Punch two holes at the top of the cardboard and the scrap paper. Place the pencil at the top, between the two holes and then weave the rubber band through the holes so it keeps the pencil in place.
K-2: Read JOHN MUIR AND STICKEEN to the class. Encourage students to think of “Text to Self” connections (a la Mosaic of Thought) about an adventure that they’ve had with a pet or on a hike. You can have them do a “think, pair, share” first.
The journal can then be used to either a) write about their nature adventure or b) take nature walks and write down observations like John Muir did. Children can sketch the trees and plants around them and then write about each one in the journal. Often, your own school campus or surrounding streets will suffice to record a variety of flora and fauna. Students can write down adjectives next to their sketches such as tall, green, pointy, etc.
3-5: Upper grade students should be able to have a more in depth discussion about “Text to Text” Connections. What other books have they read that tell the account of an adventure against the elements? Have they read other biographies about John Muir or others? In their journal, they should be able to write a either a biography (after interviewing a parent or grandparent) or an autobiographical account of a nature adventure.
Pippa of Lauramore
(The Eldentimber Series Book 1)
Author: Shari L. Tapscott
Pippa of Lauramore is a young adult fantasy novel. Yes, there are a few dragons. Yes, there are a few fairies. But they don’t overwhelm the story, meaning that there are enough magical creatures to satisfy readers who love high fantasy but not so many that they annoy readers who don’t.
The biggest delight in this novel is the main character Princess Phillipa (Pippa). She is quirky and skampy, delighting in archery, cliff diving and escaping the confines of the castle. At 18 however, it is time she turned from being a child to marrying someone and settling into the duties of a princess.
Unfortunately, the suiter who pursues her hand the hardest, Pippa despises the most. So she asks her father the king to settle the matter with a tournament, agreeing to marry the winner. The tournament brings young men of nobility to the tournament where we are introduced to the various other kingdoms beyond Lauramore. This first book in the series thus sets the stage for stories to take place in other kingdoms in future books.
What keeps the reader going so enthusiastically though is Pippa’s internal dialogue. She has tongue in cheek humor and often acts without thinking things through. But her heart is true and we see her growth throughout the novel as she moves from spoiled princess to a woman who knows what she wants and respects the honor of others, ultimately exhibiting honor herself.
Frankly, as I was looking for a middle grade or young adult novel to review for this month, I began seven novels, putting each of them down in succession until I came to this one. The others included language I objected to, were racier than appropriate for the age or simply didn’t hold my interest. Pippa of Lauramore, however, was a delight to read from opening page to close.
The main readers for this book are young women. I tried to imagine a young man reading and although there are interesting tournament events and dragon hunting and not a lot of romancey shmooshy stuff—the main audience remains young women. With that in mind, I commend the artist who created the series’ rich book covers showing the main character, but with her face hidden. The reader is thus encouraged to imagine her own face in the picture and personalize the adventure she is reading.
I also like that these books are presently packaged as a 4-book series on Kindle for under $12. Or you can get the first book—Pippa of Lauramere—for $.99 on Kindle and see how you like it.
I think you will.
Prisoner of Carrot Castle
Author: Chris Pederson
Illustrator: Kate Jeong
In the first book of the Veggie Chronicles series, THE PRISONER OF CARROT CASTLE, kids discover that eating vegetables is what heroes do, that is, if they want to eat their way out of a wicked King’s clutches. Vivid colors and lots of action engage readers in Aiden’s adventure. Educational material at the end (or offered at purplecarrotbooks.com) can be used by parents and teachers to extend the conversation and develop lesson plans.
ACTIVITY-Reading Strategies (K-3)
Venn Diagram – List the similarities between carrots and broccoli in the middle. List how carrots are different on the left side and list how broccoli is different on the right side.
The Rabbit Ate My Homework
Author: Rachel Elizabeth Cole
Fiction: ages 8-12
Eleven-year old Drew knows the house rules. When he breaks one, his sister blackmails him into breaking another one: the “no pets” rule. Together they hide a rabbit in Drew’s closet until he can find a way to get himself out of trouble without being grounded for the next two years.
The story is fast and engaging and filled with great boy humor. At one point you wonder if Drew will ever stop lying and figure out that the best way out of his trouble is to tell the truth and face the consequences. Even as we root for Drew to do the right thing, we love him and his family even before he has learned those lessons.
The book is written from an 11-year old boy’s point of view; without any sort of adult preaching. It would also be a fun book to read with a child, allowing time to discuss consequences and a few potential “what-if” scenarios.
Presently Cole has written a second book, The Rabbit Ate My Flip Flops and is apparently working on a third, The Rabbit Ate My Hall Pass.
Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune
Author: Pamela S. Turner
Illustrator: Gareth Hinds
Teen; nonfiction, history, Asia, martial arts
Minamoto Yoshitsune, the most famous Japanese samurai who ever lived, was larger than life. In fact, his life is often referred to as “legend” or “myth.” This new book about Minamoto Yoshitsune, just out from Charlesbridge with extensive research by Turner into the Japanese culture, history and the code of the Japanese samurai, shows teens the facts and a hint of the man behind the legend.
Turner does not hesitate to share the obvious violence of this period of Japanese history. She does so, however skillfully and with lively writing perfectly focused on her reader’s age and maturity. Her extensive footnotes, timelines and references reinforce the historical sense.
Gareth Hinds, known for his strong illustrations, gives the book a graphic novel feel that teens will appreciate.
Usually I review books for young kids here at Ruby for Women. This month’s book is different, addressing the interests of teens and young adults. Homeschooling parents might also be interested in this unique book for its history/social studies angle.
The Story of King Jesus
Author: Ben Irwin
Illustrator: Nick Lee
The Beginner’s Bible: Timeless Children’s Stories
When I became a grandma, one of the first things I did was buy my grandson a copy of everyone’s favorite Bible story book, The Beginner’s Bible: Timeless Children’s Stories. So when I saw The Story of King Jesus by Ben Irwin, illustrated by Nick Lee I wondered how it would compare.
The Beginner’s Bible introduces children to some of the more well-known characters and stories in both the Old and New Testaments, with each story standing alone. The Story of King Jesus however looks at the whole Bible and tells an abbreviated version of God’s plan through Jesus.
Although The Story of King Jesus does a nice job of summarizing, it leaves out a few theological points that will require some discussion between the child and the adult reader. For example, the text says, “God raised Jesus from the dead.” Several pages later, the text simply states that “…someday, Jesus our King is coming back.” A child may be confused as to where Jesus was between those pages. Jesus’ ascension to heaven, what he is doing now and the person of the Holy Spirit are thus left as hefty discussion points the adult reader may need to address with the child.
Yes, we are talking about discussing theology with a 4-year old. The point, however is simply that there probably will be questions. The adult should be prepared to discuss them at whatever level the child is able to understand.
In spite of questions that may come up, I wholeheartedly recommend this lovely book. Lee’s colorful illustrations enhance the text perfectly and help tell part of the story presented.
Plus, it’s a great thing any time a child can be told the story of Jesus in a child-friendly manner. If the book leads to further discussion, even better.
Third Daughter (The Royals of Dharia, Book One)
Author: Susan Kaye Quinn
Fiction:Young adult clean and wholesome romance; sub genres: steam punk, sci fi
Seventeen-year old Aniri is the third daughter of the Queen. Yes, she has a few royal duties, but otherwise she’s not really important in the kingdom. It’s the first daughter who will one day be queen; the second daughter is the back up. But when Aniri agrees to a marriage to secure a political alliance, she struggles with the question of freedom vs. duty—while being thrust into a position to help prevent a war among the three kingdoms on the planet.
The story is set on an imagined world. The rich culture created by Quinn is nicely balanced with interesting steam punk technology. The descriptions of the clothing and palace gardens are lush and exotic; the descriptions of the technology make it understandable without detail overload. The characters in the book were well-defined, believable and made it easy for the reader to keep track of who is doing what and why.
Each book in the trilogy focuses on Aniri but shares how her life, her choices and her actions affect the kingdom as they relate to her two sisters. Although the trilogy is considered romance, the writing is clean and wholesome, while still acknowledging both the physical and emotional parts of true romance. The series is not Christian, however, the brief mentions of the fictional society’s goddess did more to supplement the planetary world Quinn built, rather than take away from my personal Christian world view.
While I love most all young adult novels, it’s especially nice to have one whose heroine is spunky and brave even if she doesn’t want to be and who is neither a physical mutant nor in possession of supernatural abilities. Since most of the rest of us aren’t either.