download

Snickerdoodle Takes the Cake by Ethan Long

This is funny look at self-control and how sometimes we just can’t help ourselves even though we know better. It’s also a portrait of a happy family and coming up with a reasonable solution to a problem. Snickerdoodle wakes up early and goes into the kitchen where he sees his favorite cake, his mom’s lemon poppy seed cake with buttercream icing, made for his grandmother’s birthday. There is a note attached to the cake that says, “DO NOT TOUCH.” Snickerdoodle imagines his mother’s reaction were he to touch the cake, but he rationalizes that he can try one tiny crumb. However, this taste sends his taste buds into such rapture that he finds himself unable to stop his hand from scooping up a chunk of cake! When his mother comes into the kitchen and sees the cake, she finds Snickerdoodle hiding in a cupboard enjoying the forbidden cake. By the time they get back to the kitchen, Snickerdoodle’s brother and sister have helped themselves to the cake also and it is too far gone to be fixed. But Snickerdoodle has an idea: he and his siblings bake a new cake themselves and decorate it with icing. The illustrations make it clear that this cake is not nearly as pretty to look at as the original cake, with its lopsided layers and messy icing, but it was made with love. When they present it to their grandmother, she exclaims, “What a beautiful cake!” This time, Snickerdoodle is allowed to eat the cake, yet the book ends with his mom tracking him down in the bathtub where he is enjoying his third slice! We have all done similar things and it is nice to see the mother not overreacting and the children participating in the baking of a cake for their grandmother. Filled with humorous, cartoon-like illustrations that add to the fun.

Advertisements

download

Love, Santa by Martha Brockenbrough and illustrated by Lee White

A beautiful, heartfelt book about the true spirit of Christmas and giving, for children who have discovered that Santa Claus isn’t real, written by a mother for her daughter. The story is told through a series of letters written to Santa Claus by a young girl named Lucy. In each letter, Lucy gets a reply from Santa. The letters begin when Lucy is five years old and each year, we see Lucy’s growth as her letters become more sophisticated, until when she is eight years old, Lucy writes to her mother instead of Santa Claus, asking her mom if she is really Santa. Lucy’s mother’s reply is a gem. She explains that she is not Santa because Santa isn’t any one person, but something bigger that involves people having faith – in their family, themselves, and in love, which is what our parents give us when they foster our belief in Santa Claus and light up our young lives with the joy and specialness that Christmas brings. In the end, Lucy delivers gifts and donations to others and this makes her feel she too is a part of Santa Claus. With lovely watercolor illustrations and a layout in which each letter Lucy writes to and receives from Santa is included in an envelope glued to the page.

download

Baabwaa and Wooliam by David Elliott and illustrated by Melissa Sweet

This is a hilarious picture book about two staid best friends who get more than they bargained for when they decide they need some adventure in their lives. Baabwaa is a female sheep who loves to knit, and Wooliam is a male sheep who loves to read. Their days consist of sitting together knitting and reading. Until one day, Wooliam, after reading an adventure story, decides they need an adventure of their own. They go for a walk around their field where they are confronted by another sheep, or so they think. It is actually a wolf! Wooliam realizes their danger and warns Baabwaa to run because it is the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing that he has read about. The two are chased by the wolf, but the wolf is intrigued to hear Wooliam’s words, so he stops the chase to ask Wooliam if he’s really read about him. Wooliam shows him the book as proof, but it turns out the wolf doesn’t know how to read. Baabwaa volunteers the reluctant Wooliam to teach the wolf to read and in the meantime, she knits a new coat for him! Infused with lots of humor and excitement, this is a charming book about unexpected friendships and the richness friendship brings to our lives.

download

Pizza Day by Melissa Iwai

This picture book chronicles a day in the life of a father, son, and their dog as they prepare homemade pizza, including homemade dough and tomato sauce. To make the pizza, many of the ingredients are sourced from their own garden. The book opens with the line, “Today is pizza day.” We see the mother leave for work while the boy, father, and dog go out into their garden and pick tomatoes, basil, carrots, onions, and green peppers. They then go inside and make the dough. The boy has fun kneading the dough, which is then left in the bowl to allow it to rise. They then chop the vegetables and make the sauce. While they are waiting for the dough to be ready and the sauce is simmering, the three go outside and play. It is then time to make the pizza. The dough is rolled out, then topped with the sauce, vegetables, and cheese. As the pizza is baking, the mom comes home and prepares a fresh salad to go with the pizza and the family has a picnic in the backyard, eating the pizza and salad. A lovely ending to a happy day. The back of the book includes a recipe for the dough and sauce and creating the pizza step-by-step. Most kids love making homemade pizza and get excited about it. This book is a fine representation of a happy family spending a contented day together. It is also an ideal book to inspire growing your own vegetable garden and making scrumptious food like pizza from it. Cooking together is a wonderful bonding experience for families and also teaches children an important life skill. The illustrations are colorful and appealing, showing the family’s beautiful garden and the joy of playing outdoors and creating fresh, wholesome food.

download

Road Trip by Gary Paulsen and Jim Paulsen

Ben, a 14-year-old boy, his border collie Atticus, and his impulsive father go on a road trip to adopt a border collie puppy. Along the way, they pick up an entertaining group of passengers, including Ben’s older friend Theo, who is a tough guy trying to straighten out his life, Gus, a mechanic who lends them his bus when their vehicle breaks down early into the trip, and a waitress named Mia, who walks out of the restaurant where she was working to join the group after putting up with harassment. Ben is worried about his parents and his dad uses the trip to explain that he has quit his job to start his own business flipping houses and that because money is tight, Ben may not be able to attend hockey camp. The book is narrated by Ben, with Atticus’ commentary added at the end of each chapter. Atticus’ perspective provides added humor and wisdom to this quirky and fun romp with happy endings all around. The book also has a heart, promoting the virtue of dogs and dog rescue and a touching relationship between father and son. This title is followed by a sequel, Field Trip, in which a third dog is added to the family. A great choice especially for boys who may not be big readers and dog lovers.

download

The Second Life of Abigail Walker by Frances O’Roark Dowell

This is realistic fiction with a touch of fantasy that delivers a powerful message about being yourself, standing up to bullies, and not conforming to fit in with the popular crowd. Abby is in sixth grade and is neither popular nor unpopular. She sits at lunchtime with what she calls the “medium” girls – not the most popular, but not the least – but she is growing tired of their constant chatter about their looks and their comments about her weight. Abby is a bit chubby, but she is fine with herself. After one comment too many, Abby walks away from the medium girls at lunchtime, thereby earning their wrath and making her the target of their bullying. She meets a boy who invites her to sit with him at lunch and she makes friends with him and another boy who sits with them. Abby is much happier with these friends, who she can talk to and be herself. Abby’s parents are getting on her about her weight also, and she is getting frustrated and angry at people not accepting her for who she is, even her own family. One day, she spies a fox in the field across from her house. The fox bites her and the bite seems to lead Abby to a new beginning. She walks to a part of her neighborhood she has never been before, where she meets 8-year-old Anders, who lives with his grandmother, father, and dog across a creek. Ander’s father, Matt, is suffering post-traumatic stress disorder after returning from Iraq and so things are difficult for the home-schooled boy and his grandmother. Abby begins spending more time with Anders and his family, helping Matt with a writing project that soothes his PTSD. Helping with this project allows her to help someone else. It also takes her to the computer lab at school, where she makes another new friend, giving her yet more strength to stand up to her tormentors. Abby doesn’t fight back, but just moves on, finding friends who like and accept her, and eventually the mean girls ostracize themselves more and more from their group until they are the outsiders. The fox’s story is also followed in alternating chapters told from her point-of-view, which lends the fantasy to the book. We discover that the fox has a connection to Matt as she learns to find her way in difficult circumstances just as Abby and Matt do.

This is a book of depth, which realistically portrays the cruelty of pre-teen girls towards one another and how parents don’t always understand their pre-teens, even when they have good intentions. Abby is a wonderful character, brave and proud of who she is, finding her true self,  while maintaining her self-respect and making a happy existence for herself.

download

Eight Keys by Suzanne LaFleur

This is a realistic fiction chapter book about 11-year-old Elise. It explores the difficulty of the pre-teen years, when children can struggle with their identity as they begin the change from a child to a young adult, and the hardships of middle school, where kids can be so cruel to one another. Elise’s best friend has always been Franklin, but now that they are in middle school, Elise questions her friendship with him when he seems too much like a little kid, which causes teasing at school. She is not a good friend to Franklin and damages their friendship. While struggling with this situation, she discovers that her father, who died of cancer when she was three years old after losing her mother at birth, has left her a series of messages in the rooms of the barn at her aunt and uncle’s house, who have raised her. As she explores each room of the barn, she learns more about herself and who and where she came from. This experience helps her to grow and mature, so she can mend her relationship with Franklin, stand up to bullying, and also make a new friend. Elise has a wonderful, loving family who support her – her aunt and uncle, as well as her aunt’s sister and her baby who have recently come to live with them. These secondary characters really added to the story for me as they helped Elise find her way and realize the importance of family and friends and being proud of who you are instead of changing yourself to try to fit in with the so-called cool kids.