7-12, Books, Children, Hi-Lo

The Keepers: The Box and The Dragonfly by Ted Sanders Review

Series: The Keepers #1
Title: The Box and the Dragonfly
Author: Ted Sanders
Publisher: Harper Collins
Page #: 544
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Even before I had finished this guy I was handing it out to kids because I knew it was great.  If you have a child that really loves Harry Potter or fantastic worlds that are set within the real world this is definitely a series to check out.  The first two books in the series have been published and it is ongoing so if they like it there will be more books in the future.

This story follows two unlikely heros who are thrust into a world they didn’t know existed and it all starts with a warehouse full of stuff.  Aisles and aisles of boxes and bins filled with doodads and thingamabobs that to the untrained eye seem kitschy and out of place.  Both our protagonists have an affinity that has laid dormant in their genes which allows them to bond with one specific item in the warehouse.  Once bonded the item changes from a paperweight into a powerful magical item.  Each item is unique and each wielder is the only one able to use that particular item.

Little do the kids know that there are very powerful creatures who want to have all of these magic items to use as they see fit.  These creatures were once the makers of such items but have since lost the ability to do so.  They are trying to round up as many as possible to fortify their own power.  The kids will have to decide which side to fight for.  The side of humans who were given these gifts, or the side of the monsters who made them.

The first book is definitely a traditional set up.  We meet the cast of characters, learn how they got their items, what their items do, and get a taste of what the bad guys can do.  What stood out to me the most was definitely the world building.  Sanders has put in time and effort to create a history for the items in his world and to create rules for his magic that helps keep it in check.  I fell in love with the world long before I started to care for the characters and their individual plights.

It was fast paced and I didn’t mind that most of the book was learning about the world since it was such an interesting world to inhabit.  I definitely see the potential for these books to be great and I went and grabbed a copy of the second book and it is on my TBR for this year.  If you have a little one that likes action and adventure this is definitely a little known series to take a look at.  If they enjoy fantastic elements in a more believable and realistic world it is also a good one, as not everyone wants to deal with an entirely new world.

I will say that the bad guys here are a bit scary so it might be best to wait to read it until you are 10+, but it was not particularly challenging so if you have a brave 8 year old they would definitely be able to understand the book.  Perhaps it is one to read together, so that any scary moments can be discussed and snuggles can be used to build comfort.

The protagonists are both genders which I always appreciate.  While the main POV character is male (as is common for the genre) I actually felt the girl had more character to her.  She definitely had a bigger personality and it was their friendship that really held the story line together.  I believed that they trusted each other, while it started as simply discussing this weird thing they had in common, I saw their friendship grow and bloom over the course of the book.  It wasn’t instant friendship and I really appreciated that.

The other big thing that I loved was that they have families!  These weren’t orphans being signed up for a magic war with no one to miss or worry about them, they had parents who loved and cared for them siblings that counted on them.  Of course the very things they loved could also be used against them.  I hope that their families become a bigger part of the stories the more this series continues.  There is a lot that a family can do in the same way that freedom from the constraints of traditional family structures allows certain things, there is great power in having generations available as a resource.

This was one of the more interesting Middle Grade books I read last year, even though it took me the whole year to finish it.  I kept putting it down to read other pressing things (like books for my book club) but it was always by my bedside and I would read a bit here and there because it was so captivating.  I couldn’t just put it down and forget about it.

Do you guys have any suggestions for books that are similar to this one?  If so please leave them down below so that I can get myself a copy and read it to add to my repertoire of great Middle Grade Fantasy.  Along those lines, are there any stories you particularly want to hear me talk about?  I am always open to suggestions for things to look into.

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2-5, 3-6, 5-7, 7-12, Books, Children, Musings

January 2018 Book Releases for Children

I’ve been working on a way to share the books that are coming out each month for kids with you guys and it has been hard to find a system that I like, I am going to keep playing around with it but for me, browsing the cover art is helpful since they tell you a lot about a book and also lets you know whether your kids will be interested in it.

This month I tried making a Pinterest Board that would allow you to scroll through the covers and click on something interesting.  The link brings you right to the Goodreads pages for the titles which include the release dates, reviews, genre denominations and links to buy the books.  Let me know if this works for you guys because aesthetically I do think that it is a great idea.

As far as new releases go, there were significantly fewer this month.  Which makes sense as most people don’t want to spend money after Christmas, they did all their shopping the last few months and are backing up, but there are a few books coming out that are worth looking at.

Again, let me know how you feel about this format of release round up and any other commentary, suggestions, or critiques are welcome as well.

Happy New Year!

 

7-12, Books, Children, YA (Young Adult)

Books for the Budding Environmentalist

I have spent the last month or so trying to decide how best to structure the blog going forward.  I have always known that I wanted to post Mon/Wed/Fri but I wasn’t sure what to do to help stream line my content.

I work best in some sort of structure and I think that what I will be doing moving forward is making each day have a theme.  Friday’s theme will focus on Young Readers.  This is a wide theme, it could include Middle grade book reviews, lists of content that best suits the young reader genre, or anything that for children who have learned to read on their own and are expected to do so for school.

Starting it off this month I wanted to talk a bit about some middlegrade books that I recommend for parents who want their kids to be ecologically conscious.

Some folks may have heard of this one, but I was surprised to find that Carl Hiaasen is not as well known.  I read this one when I was a child (and if you need some quality early 2000s film then the movie adaptation is pretty great as well) but all of Hiaasen’s books have some element of animal activism.  This one involves a group of kids who are attempting to save endangered owls from losing their habitat when a popular breakfast joint wants to expand and build a parking lot.  It discusses why it is important to protect animal rights and the “evils” of big business … a.k.a. greed.  I really enjoyed the book and there are a number that he has written so if this particular plot doesn’t work then just looking at his back catalog is definitely worth while.

If you have a more mature tween or a teen who is interested in environmental post apocalypse situations then this one is definitely worth a look.  There is a bit of high tension between humans and some violence so I would definitely reserve it for the older kids but it is still a great look at the issues that fossil fuels have on our water.  The story follows one girl in a world where all of the water has become poisoned and humans are fighting to survive as their crops are destroyed and the drinkable water is difficult to find and controlled by a few very powerful individuals.  The protagonist was lucky enough to have a safe place to hole up but there are strangers moving toward her and she fears what that might mean.

This is another older book so it may difficult to find in main stream stores but it was one that I really enjoyed.  The protagonist of this story volunteers his time at a veterinarian’s who takes in birds of prey injured by the wildfires that have been threatening the local forests.  It involves discussions on the forestry industry, community service with animals, and the tension between business and nature in a rural Montana community.  If you can get your hands on a used copy then it is definitely a worthwhile book for animal lovers, prospective vets, or folks who want to learn more about the dangers of forest fires to natural habitats.

If your kid is interested in renewable resources and the depletion of fossil fuels then this dystopia might be one that they enjoy.  It takes place just ten years in the future when all oil and gas has been used up.  It follows how the world copes with the sudden loss of energy in a not so great way.   It is another one that has more interpersonal violence and would be better for more mature young readers and teens but is worth a read for anyone looking for a more realistic dystopia, no offense to The Hunger Games.  There is also an element of climate change and extreme weather caused by the over use of fossil fuels so it would also be good to look at if you wanted to discuss more sustainable practices in the home environment.

This last one is definitely the oldest book on this list (being younger than I am but not by much) but it is one for any kids who prefer mysteries to science fiction.  This particular Joe Bass Adventure revolves around an old boat maker whose daughter was found drowned after raising awareness of the dangers of DDT being sprayed on the crops in her area.  This would be a good choice to discuss the use of chemicals and pesticides which has greatly fallen to the way side.  If you want to discuss why organic food is healthier or why it is important to always wash your fruits and vegetables the environmental aspect of this.  It is also good to discuss the danger that comes with being the face of a movement.

This was definitely an interesting collection to pull together.  If you guys have any other good suggestions for books that discuss issues with the environment for young readers I would love to hear your suggestions.  There were a fair number of young adult books but finding some that were appropriate for younger readers was a bit difficult.  I don’t think I was as interested into them when I was that age, I was definitely more of a fantasy reader though so that isn’t super surprising.

If you have any suggestions for collections I should pull together in the future or books I should check out then also feel free to pass it along.

5-7, 7-12, Books, Children, Hi-Lo

Nostalgia Junkie: Midnight for Charlie Bone by Jenny Nimmo

Part of my journey into recommending kids books has reunited me with some books that I really loved as a child that have fallen by the wayside.

My book club and I have a series where we read/reread some of our favorite series from childhood together (so far we have done A Series of Unfortunate Events and my favorite series from childhood Pendragon) This is going to be a similar thing but I am going to endeavor to do it on my own.

Disclaimer: some of the series that I discuss may be currently out of print so using your local used book stores, libraries, or online stores may be the best/only option for finding them if you are interested.

Book Title: Midnight for Charlie Bone
Series Title: Children of the Red King
Publisher: Orchard
Page #: 416
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy

This was a book that I found at my school’s library, brought home, and loved.  It took me a while to remember the title of it when I thought back and wanted to reread it.  It definitely wasn’t the series that grabbed me but I did remember the world and some of the characters as well as my affinity for it.  I feel like I read it during a period of time that I was transitioning out of middle grade and into young adult so I didn’t continue on with the series (which may have helped my recollection of the title).  I wanted to go back and read it to see if it was worth recommending and boy was it difficult for me to find.  I did manage to find a set of the series on Amazon but if you can find it at a used book store or library I would highly recommend that over using Amazon.

Now, I reread this guy and actually found myself being sucked right back into the world.  There were a number of reviews online that discussed this series as a Harry Potter wannabe and while I agree that it was originally marketed as such (I mean, look at that cover … it evokes all of the same feelings that the HP covers did).  However, I feel like having actually read it that there are very few similarities between HP and this series.  Sure, boy goes to a school because he can do magic, sounds a lot like HP but aside from that general idea, not very much in common.  However, it might be a good one to hand over to a child who has finished HP and is looking for something new, if they are interested in magic and adventure, this one definitely falls into that vein.

So what makes this story unique?  For one, the magic users are a small minority at this school, for another, the people who run the school are the villains not the good guys, plus, the main character has a very large and extended family he can rely on to support him.  Generally Charlie is not a “chosen one” for any reason other than his family is quite affluent in the society.  Outside of that, he is a rather unspectacular boy.  He is going to this school, against his wishes, and feels alienated within the school aside from a few other outcast friends who actually seem to make more sense at the school than he himself does.  There are friends who have magic, there are friends who are just incredibly talented in various forms of art.  There are characters who are conflicted within their own wants and desires, and characters who seem fairly straight forward.  In the end it is Charlie who needs saving by his classmates and not the other way around.

While I have not yet continued reading the series, just these few differences make the components of the story incredibly different and interesting in their own right.  The characters at times felt very one note, but so did the characters in the first HP book.  So that is something to take note of.  I wouldn’t write off the book yet, because I did really enjoy the plot of the book and I would hope that they become more interesting as time progresses in the story.  Most of the focus of the first book was world building and alliance making.  It had very little to do with the growth of characters, but that is common of books meant to be in a series.

The overarching plot of the series was interesting enough to make me want to continue reading without feeling like there was no resolution for the book.  The parts of the mystery of the world we did figure out were enough to feel like something was accomplished, and the plot of the book on its own was also rewarding.  It illustrated the power of the villains while also highlighting the power of teamwork and empathy rather than the true power of the main character.  The idea of this book is to explore a fantasy world where there is no singular savior which in a way I find very refreshing as even adult fantasy novels tend to rely heavily on a chosen one trope.

This is definitely a series to grab if you have a fantasy obsessed kid and one to discuss with the first HP book as a counterpoint perhaps.  It would definitely be worth while to read as an independent reading books and felt like it was appropriate for younger readers who may not be ready to continue with some of the later HP books or a book for kids who need something easier language wise but want content similar to HP.

If there are any books or series that you remember but can’t quite remember whether you loved it or what in particular was interesting then please leave a comment down below and I will try and see if I can grab a copy to discuss.  (Personally I know that I want to read Artemis Fowl because I missed out on it as a child but am open to other suggestions as well).

 

5-7, 7-12, Books, Children, YA (Young Adult)

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling

This one goes out to all those parents, teachers, librarians, and kids who loved Wonder by R. J. Palacio and want something similar.  I gobbled it up and loved every second of it.

Title: Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus
Author: Dusti Bowling
Publisher: Sterling Children’s Books
Page #: 272
Genre: Middlegrade, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction

I made a video review of this one right after finishing it, watching it back several months later I realized that it took me a while to catch my footing while talking about it but if you can stick with my scattered thoughts for about a minute I get there and you can hear why I think this book is going to become an instant classic.

 

I liked it more than I liked Wonder which is blasphemy in some ways and warranted in others.  Definitely one to read to help introduce empathy and acceptance of diversity in kids, also a great way to discuss deformity, disability, and mental health at a young age.  One to pick up next week when it is published.

I look forward to Dusti Bowling’s future books because I’m sure she has a bright career ahead of her if this is any indication.  Well done.

7-12, Books, Children, YA (Young Adult)

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud Review

Another of the backlist reviews, this time a book that I read out loud to my best friend.  We both happen to be adults, and we both happened to really enjoy this book.  We had many a giggle and fell a little bit in love with the banter found within.

Series Title: Lockwood & Co.
Book Title and #: The Screaming Staircase #1
Author: Jonathan Stroud
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Page #: 381
Genre: Fantasy, Mystery, Middle-Grade, Ghost Story

5-7, 7-12, Books, Children, Comics, Hi-Lo

Diesel: Ignition by Tyson Hesse Review

This was a review of a middle grade graphic novel I did a few weeks back.  Part of the ongoing effort to post any back content that is relevant to the blog.

Title: Diesel: Ignition
Author: Tyson Hesse
Illustrator: Tyson Hesse
Publisher: BOOM! Box
Page #: 211
Genre: Graphic Novel, Fantasy, Adventure

 

Bibliomancy For Beginners, Books, Musings

#NostalgiaJunkie Season 2?

Remember the good old days when I wasn’t late posting?  I have been struggling again guys, come help me out!  Send me all of your love and well wishes~

In any case, this was supposed to be posted yesterday and it completely slipped my mind.  It was live on the YouTube channel in time but that’s about it at this point.

I will also be posting something that has been missing the last few days on the blog later today, and the Wednesday post that was supposed to be out today anyway.  ALL OF THE POSTS ALL OF THE TIME…. or all of the posts just on Wednesdays… how would you like a weeks worth of content in one day.  Probably will be way too overwhelming.

 

Whose ready to read some middle grade fiction?  We are!  I’ll be back in a few hours don’t you worry.