Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Top 100 Chapter Books-Final Ten!!!!!

It's Happy Dance Time!!!

Yes, I have finally made it to the last 10 books of my Top 100 Children's Chapter Books! I was starting to believe that I would never finish this countdown. Now, if you know me my top ten will probably not be too surprising.  Especially, considering I have tattoos of my favorite two books (for the record both tattoos are visible and in perfectly respectable areas).  Another hint, the use of initials is very popular amongst these 10 authors.

10. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
Well, let me start by saying that if my first name was Lyman I would just use the initial too. So are you a Dorothy in Oz or Alice in Wonderland fan? Honestly, I went back and forth on which one I liked better.  Both books feature female characters that are transported to strange, magical lands where they meet a variety of fantastic characters.

First and foremost, I decided that The Wonderful Wizard of Oz trumps Alice's Adventures in Wonderland because there is an actual plot.  Dorothy's trek across Oz is a quest during which she makes friends and enemies. In the culmination of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Dorothy must triumph over the villainous Wicked Witch before she can return to Kansas.  Let's be truthful, as much as I adore Alice, her meandering tour through Wonderland is more like a bizarre, drug-induced hallucination than an epic story of adventure. Not saying that Charles Dodgson was a habitual or even recreational drug user, which is a topic of debate, but proven to be unfounded.

Whose idea was this costume?
The second reason that The Wonderful Wizard of Oz deserves to be in the top 10 is Baum went on to write another 13 Oz books and although none of them is quite as good as the first they are wonderful stories. In fact readers were so enamored with Oz that other authors continued on with the series. The most well known of these is Ruth Plumly Thompson who published 19 books about Oz.

It is not possible to talk about The Wonderful Wizard of Oz  book without at least mentioning The Wizard of Oz movie starring Judy Garland.  I remember being terrified of the flying monkeys as a kid which were incredibly creepy looking. Also, am I the only one that noticed that Dorothy's pigtails keep changing length during her journey along the yellow brick road? And my husband didn't even believe me when I told him that the scarecrow carries a gun into the spooky forest. Who cares about scary winged monkeys and weird inconsistencies when you have the lollipop guild and Somewhere Over the Rainbow?

Baum in Macatawa
Ok, my final argument for the supremacy of the Oz books is completely biased, but as I have stated before: This is my list so I get to do what I want. After the financial success of Father Goose: His Book, Baum purchased a home in Macatawa Park, Michigan on the coast of Lake Michigan. Supposedly it is here that Baum wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and local legend claims that the Emerald City was even inspired by Castle Park in Holland, Michigan. So there you go, simple Michiganian (or is it Michigander) pride that gives The Wonderful Wizard of Oz that little nudge.
The Sign of the Goose, Macatawa Park, Michigan

The Castle of Castle Park

9. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
You had to know that more Roald Dahl was coming, because as you know he is my personal hero. How do you entice children? Write an entire book about chocolate, candy, and, wait, MORE CHOCOLATE!!!!  Throw in a main character more sympathetic than a three legged, blind puppy, a wonderfully, wacky setting, and a genius candy maker that is a complete loon and you have a SCRUMDIDDLYUMPTIOUS story (I love that nearly every book by Dahl has made up words thrown in. We can call it Dahlish or Dahlese).

Last year Charlie and the Chocolate Factory celebrated its 50th anniversary and the original book is believed to have sold over 20 million copies! How many children during that half century have fantasized about owning their own chocolate factory complete with oompa loompas and a glass elevator?

Movie adaptations of books are usually sub par, but the 1971 version starring Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka is one of the most beloved movies of all time. I don't think that there are enough adjectives to describe how spectacular Gene Wilder is as Willy Wonka. Unfortunately, that makes Johnny Depp's peculiar portrayal of Willy Wonka in Tim Burton's remake even more tragic. You have no idea how much it hurts me to say that, because Tim Burton rocks, but my recommendation is stick to the original.
No contest!

8. Holes by Louis Sachar
Prior to reading Holes I always associated Louis Sachar with the light and zany Wayside School books that were popular when I was a kid. As much as I adore Sachar's hilarious books about the 30 story school with one classroom on each floor (except the 19th floor which does not exist) Holes is on a completely different level as far as depth, plot, and inspiration.

The men in the Yelnats family have been cursed for generations and Stanley is just the latest Yelnats to be leading a life fraught with ill fortune. In his latest mishap Stanley is accused of stealing a very famous pair of shoes and as a result ends up in Camp Green Lake, a juvenile detention center in the middle of a hot and dusty Texas desert.

Stanley's story is brilliantly interwoven with flashbacks of the history of Camp Green Lake and Kissin' Kate Barlow as well as the tale of how the Yelnats family came to be cursed for all time by Madame Zeroni.  It is nothing short of masterful how Sacher takes so many diverging characters and story lines and combines them into one fantastic book that is part mystery, adventure, historical fiction, humor, and dramatic realistic fiction.

The film adaptation of Holes starring Shia LeBeouf, Sigourney Weaver, Jon Voight, Henry Winkler, Patricia Arquette, Dule' Hill, and Eartha Kitt is superbly acted (as if you couldn't tell from the names on that list). Is it as good as the book with the same level of detail? Of course not, but it was really well done. Just make sure you do not just watch the movie without reading the book.

7. Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
Well, I have already talked about Stuart Little and The Trumpet of the Swan so now let's move on to Charlotte's Web which is, without a doubt, the superior of E.B White's children's novels. The story of Wilbur, the runt pig, who is first rescued from slaughter by Fern and secondly by Charlotte, the talking and spelling spider so deeply affected my daughter when she was 7 that she refused to eat pork for a year.

As with all of White's books, Charlotte's Web is a perfect marriage of human and animal characters. Each character from the humans like Fern and Avery Arable to the animals such as Charlotte A. Cavatica and Templeton the rat (my personal favorite) has a unique and believable voice. Based on the premise, Charlotte's Web could have been overly sappy and precious, but White does not sugar coat farm life. The almost dry realism mixed with fantasy is what help makes Charlotte's Web a children's classic.

Either my second or third grade teacher read Charlotte's Web aloud to the class and then we watched the animated, musical version of the book. The cartoon came out in 1973 and kids still love it. My favorite part has always been when Templeton is gorging  himself at the fair. 

6.The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
Who knew that a madcap adventure in a fantastical world could be so educational. Psst!!! Do not tell your kids that before giving them The Phantom Tollbooth to read. Of course, they may catch on since Milo goes to cities named Digitopolis and Dictionopolis in the Kingdom of Wisdom.

By definition fantasy novels are unrealistic flights of imagination. Even among other books containing fabricated worlds The Phantom Tollbooth stands out as unconventional and there in lies its lasting appeal to readers.

I read The Phantom Tollbooth multiple times as a kid and as an adult I read it to my own children. Juster's writing is just so incredibly smart without ever making the reader feel stupid. Just thinking about Milo driving through the Doldrums in his little red car makes me smile.  And then there are all of the puns. If you have read any of my previous posts you will have realized that I have a penchant for puns (even bad ones).  The Whether Man; Tock, the Watch Dog; Dr. Dischord. the scientist who studies unpleasant sounds; and the Awful Dynne who collects them. I could go on and on.  Did I understand every detail of The Phantom Tollbooth when I first read it as a kid? Probably not, but that made rereading it when I was older all the more fun. You may have to explain some of the words if you read it aloud, first and foremost what a tollbooth is, but trust me that it is worth the effort.

If you do not have time to read it yourself David Hyde Pierce performs the audio version and it is fantastic! Here is just a little snippet.

5. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
There are probably not too many guys jumping up and down about Anne of Green Gables.  However, if you were a young girl who loved reading Anne Shirley was one of your heroes. I actually asked my mother if I could dye my hair red, because I wanted to be like Anne Shirley. That may have had something to do with being completely moony-eyed over Gilbert Blythe. Admit it, you were too and it was torturous waiting until book three for Anne to finally admit that she loved Gilbert back.

In addition to having Gilbert (be still my beating heart) Anne of Green Gables is just beautiful storytelling about a spunky, indomitable heroine. Despite early hardships and living during a time period when young women were not encouraged to be intelligent, ambitious, or outspoken; Anne just barrels ahead with complete confidence in who she is and what she wants.  Over a century later do girls have more freedom and opportunity? Absolutely, but countless young women still struggle with low self-esteem and Anne Shirley can be a tremendous role model.

If you have never watched the PBS miniseries of Anne of Green Gables do so immediately! You can even borrow it for free from the Portland District Library and afterwards you can watch Anne of Avonlea. Because this is a miniseries it is able to include so much more detail than the typical movie based on a book and the casting and acting is beyond perfect. I don't think that I have ever watched a movie based on a book in which the actors were exactly how I imagined them.

4. The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
No doubt about it. The Westing Game is the greatest mystery ever written for kids!  I think that one of the things that amazes me most about The Westing Game is that it was published in 1979 and it never comes across as dated. I have read this book at least 30 times and as recently as a year ago and you would never think while reading it that it was published over 3 decades ago.

When the millionaire, Sam Westing, dies the 16 residents of the recently built Sunset Towers are surprised to discover that they are heirs to his fortune.  There is a catch, though. In order to inherit they must solve the puzzle as to who murdered the the wealthy tycoon. Leading the pack of amateur detectives is 13 year old Tabitha Ruth "Turtle" Wexler who is wickedly smart, a master of the stock market, and quick to kick anyone in the shins who annoys her. Of all the literary characters that I read about as a kid I always felt the most akin to Turtle. Similar to Turtle, I grew up with a sister several years older who was beautiful and popular while I was a book smart, gawky dork. In addition, I had to spend an entire week standing by the wall during recess because I kicked two boys very hard (but I didn't kick them in the shins). Obviously since we were both ignored little sisters and violent kickers Turtle and I were kindred spirits.

I won't give away any more details about the plot, but The Westing Game is an incredibly clever and funny puzzle and I guarantee that you will never guess the ending!

3. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
You are probably wondering why Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is way up here at number three when I have already said that The Prisoner of Azkaban is my favorite book in the Harry Potter series. Well as far as being the top 100 chapter books for kids it is hard not to include the book that first sparked a world-wide mania for everything Harry Potter.

At a time when kids (and adults) were becoming more and more engrossed with technology, Rowling came along and rekindled an interest and excitement about good old fashioned books. Suddenly kids who rarely read for pleasure were willing to wait hours in line to purchase a book. Rowling also inspired countless other children's authors and really breathed new life into the fantasy genre.

It has been nearly 20 years since the publication of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (oh my God I am old!) and we are still enamored with Hogwarts, Quidditch, Voldemort, and the Boy who Lived.

2. Matilda by Roald Dahl
Ok, I am going to go off on a bit of a tangent, so please stay with me. I promise that there is an actual point and I am not just rambling on and on for no reason. Several years back I was at a youth librarian conference where children's and teen author, Donna Jo Napoli, was one of the keynote speakers. In her speech Napoli was discussing the importance of addressing difficult and even traumatic issues in children's books realistically; i.e. not always having things turn out well for the characters. Specifically, Napoli mentioned the scene in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn during which Francie is attacked by a child rapist. Napoli went on to say how she had always wished that Francie had not been rescued by her mother, because many young readers do suffer in countless horrible ways and need to know that they are not alone.

First and foremost, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is one of my favorite books so part of me was screaming NOOOOOO! when Napoli talked about wishing the plot was different. It is also an adult book, so I think that in some ways this example was inappropriate. What is okay to publish in an adult or teen book is a far cry from what is in a children's book. That point aside, I completely respect Napoli as an author and I understand some of what she was trying to say. If every book was about perfect characters frolicking happily in a sun drenched meadow with unicorns while eating cotton candy and cupcakes reading would quickly become very boring.

As a child who did experience bad things, though, books for me were an escape from that reality. Did I want to read about other kids suffering what I had? No, I was already living it and that was awful enough.When I read books I wanted hope, fantasy, and to be transported out of my reality. As Matilda says to the local librarian when asked about how she liked a book: "I was flying past the stars on silver wings. It was wonderful."

I honestly do not know if I would have made it through childhood without the books of Roald Dahl, which were always my favorites growing up. Dahl is a genius at taking traumatic events and childhood fears and attacking them with humor and outrageousness.  In Matilda you have a young girl with absolutely atrocious parents who do not love or care for her and unfortunately there are many children in the world who also lack a stable and loving home.  Dahl addresses this issue with a tremendous amount of humor and empowerment. Matilda takes her growth, education, and general happiness into her own hands and she is able to conquer every hardship and fear in her life.

Let's get away from all of the touchy-feely emotional stuff, now and talk about how insanely, marvelously funny Matilda is. There is a certain poetic justice in how Matilda gets back at first her parents and then Miss Trunchbull. Speaking of the wretched headmistress, is there another villain in children's literature that is so deliciously vile? From putting kids in the chokey, to stuffing Bruce Bottner with a massive amount of chocolate cake she is pure brazen nastiness and I love it!

People may be more familiar with Charlie and the Chocolate factory, but I believe that Matilda is Dahl's greatest triumph. Is it hilarious? Yes, but it is also a book about hope, inner strength, and  the magical power of reading.

1. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
"This must be a simply enormous wardrobe!" thought Lucy, going still further in and pushing the soft folds of the coats aside to make room for her...A moment later she found that she was standing in the middle of a wood at night-time with snow under her feet and snowflakes falling in the air.

How many closets did you go in hoping to find a hidden passage to Narnia? Oh how I dreamed of being Lucy Pevensie so I could have tea with Mr. Tumnus, ride on the back of Aslan, and live in Cair Paravel as a queen. The only change I would make is that I would stay in Narnia rather than return to England.

Although chronologically book 2, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was the first book that Lewis wrote about the fantastical world of  Narnia. In an essay titled It All Began with a Picture Lewis explains that:
"The Lion all began with a picture of a faun carrying an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood.  This picture had been in my mind since I was about sixteen.  Then one day, when I was about forty, I said to myself: 'Let's try to make a story about it.'"

Lewis persevered through writer's block, self doubt, and criticism from fellow writers who were so negative about the story that he burnt his first draft. One of these fellow writers was none other than J.R.R. Tolkien who was extremely harsh (how could Tolkien not love Narnia?)  Finally after a full decade, Lewis brought the Pevensies, the magnificent Aslan, the White Witch, Cair Paravel and the countless other extraordinary characters and details that compose Narnia to life.

I love all of the books in the Chronicles of Narnia, but The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is the zenith of the entire series. There is adventure, fear, wonder, sorrow, redemption, humor, and hope all perfectly woven together into a masterpiece that is not even 200 pages. Is there a childhood dream that can transcend stepping into a wardrobe and stepping out into an otherworldly, snowy wood and seeing the ethereal glow of a lone lamp post? Not in my opinion.

So, there you have it. My top 100 children's chapter books. Please feel free to share your thoughts since I am quite certain that not everyone will agree with my choices. My hope is that you have found some new books to read and share with your children.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Bluegrass News

If you're not a bluegrass dork like me, you might not have heard of the Carolina Chocolate Drops.  They first came to my attention on a collection of Bob Dylan covers that the library owns, and then I heard them again on a collection of modern remakes of Civil War Songs (remember when I said I was a dork?).  Even though I don't love all their songs, I do love the voice of their lone female member, Rhiannon Giddens, and the interesting ways that she uses it in their songs. Here's an example:

So you can imagine my excitement when I found out that Ms. Giddens was coming out with a solo album, Tomorrow Is My Turn.  It's on the library shelves right now, if you'd like to check it out!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Fun Read but really bad cover!

Image result for F.R.E.A.K. S. Squad Mind over monsterA couple of years ago. I wandered in to the director's office and said, "I just finished the latest Vampire Academy book and now I have nothing to read. Do you have any suggestions?" She suggested The F.R.E.A.K.S. Squad Series by Jennifer Harlow. The first one is titled Mind Over Monster. I had looked at this book and judged it by its cover and was not going to read it. However, with her recommendation, I went ahead and gave it a chance.

Synopsis: Bea (Short for Beatrice) is a school teacher with a hidden ability. She can move things with her mind! When a freak accident happens and her powers are discovered she is visited by Don the leader of  the F.R.E.A.K.S., a secret department of the government created for people with special abilities to fight supernatural crime and invited to join. Of course there is the vampire and werewolf love triangle but that takes a back seat to the all the gory goodness that comes with figuring out who is raising the dead and creating murderous zombies.

This was a great read, if you are looking for a fun story and like the paranormal. The main character reminded me of Stephanie Plum with more depth! Unfortunately, the covers have not improved at all! This is one of many times when the book is better than the cover.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Top 100:11-20

The end is nearly here!!!! When I started this whole Top 100 chapter books I really did not plan on it taking me this long and I apologize for being such an incredibly slooooowwww blogger.  I've gotten bogged down with work, kids, life, etc. Well, let's get to the Top 20.

20. The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes

In recent years bullying has become a recurrent theme in children's literature (not to mention television, movies, and the news). The Hundred Dresses is a beautifully written story that was far ahead of it's time in 1945.  In fact, it is probably the first children's chapter book to focus solely on bullying as a theme.

The story revolves around a poor Polish girl, Wanda Petronski, who is teased relentlessly by the other girls at school.  So many children (and adults too) can relate to the narrator of The Hundred Dresses who knows that the taunting is wrong, but joins in to avoid becoming a target herself. By the time Wanda's classmates acknowledge their wrongdoing their remorse is moot because the constant abuse has already forced Wanda to leave town. The Hundred Dresses may be a simple story, but it's message is timeless. Words, especially cruel ones, can have profound impact. Not only on the person who they are directed at, but also on the speaker.

19. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell
Well, this time we have a girl stranded on a deserted island. Following a devastating battle with Russian and Aleut otter hunters, the remainder of Karana's tribe decides to migrate to the mainland. When her younger brother, Ramo, is missing Karana goes back to their village to find him and subsequently both are left behind on the island. After Ramo is killed by a pack of wild dogs, Karana is forced to carry on completely alone, except for the animals that she befriends and tames.

O'Dell's astounding story of survival is based on the true legend  of the Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island. In 1853, a  woman was discovered on San Nicolas Island off the coast of California. As with O'Dell's fictional account, the woman was believed to have been marooned when the rest of her tribe, the Nicoleno, decided to leave San Nicolas Island. Rather than her brother, the real life Karana is thought to have gone back for her own child. Just as in The Island of the Blue Dolphins, though, the woman lived in a hut she had made from whale bones and was wearing a skirt fashioned from cormorant feathers when she was finally rescued.  After 18 years of living in complete isolation the woman was taken to the Santa Barbara Mission on the California mainland. Tragically, the severe changes in her environment and diet caused the woman, who was christened Juana Maria on her deathbed, to succumb to dysentery a mere seven weeks after leaving San Nicolas Island.

I hope I didn't bore you too much with all of the information. I am a bit of a history buff so I found it all fascinating. In 2012 an archeologist claimed to have discovered a cave in which Juana Maria lived. You can watch this documentary about it:

18. The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
If gorillas were able to converse in a language that humans could understand I am positive that it would be exactly as depicted by Katherine Applegate in The One and Only Ivan.
I am Ivan. I am a gorilla.
It's not as easy as it looks.

There are a lot of books out there in which the main character and narrator is an animal. Some of the more exceptional ones such as Watership Down, Black Beauty, Ben and Me, etc. are already on my list. Of all of the animal voices in literature, though, none is more convincing than Ivan's. 

I was a blubbery, weeping, wailing mess the whole time I was reading this book, but I still absolutely adored it. In his sparse and brutally honest voice, Ivan talks about his tragic history and horrendous living conditions.

Applegate based her Newbery winning book on the true and appalling story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla in Washington state. Thankfully, the true story also has a happy ending. Public outrage led to the real Ivan being removed from his inadequate and deplorable cage in the mall and sent to Zoo Atlanta where he spent the remainder of his life in the relative freedom of an open, spacious habitat.

17. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi
Avi is a long-established and respected name in the world of children's literature. The author of more than 60 popular books for children and teens, Avi has won a Newbery medal, two Newbery honors, and countless other awards.  The Tales of Dimwood Forest starring Poppy the young deer mouse, is particularly beloved in our library (probably because many of our teachers read Poppy aloud to their classes). In my opinion, though, Avi's greatest literary achievements are his historical fiction books and The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle is my absolute favorite. It is a rip-roaring adventure on the high seas with murder, pirates, and a female character who bucks every societal expectation for young, privileged girls in the Victorian era.

Many boys resist reading books with female protagonists, but there is enough action in Charlotte Doyle to win over even the most reluctant reader. This book is incredibly exciting while tackling issues of sexism, racism, and class. I will not give anything away, but the ending is spectacular, especially for kids struggling to find where they fit in.

16. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

Buckbeak the hippogriff, the Marauder's Map, Dementors, Patronuses (or is it patroni?), Professor Lupin, and Sirius Black!!  There are so many reasons  that The Prisoner of Azkaban is my favorite Harry Potter book.

The third installment of the Harry Potter series is full of twists and turns (courtesy of a time turner), and introduces a variety of fantastic new magical creatures and characters. It is unbelievable how Rowling was able create such a unique and creative world. The only word is perfection.

15. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
I have to pay homage to Lewis Carroll's fantastical journey down the rabbit hole. Even if you have not read the original text you would have to be living in an isolated, native tribe hidden deep within an undiscovered area of the amazon jungle to not know who Alice, the Mad Hatter, and the Cheshire Cat are. Movies, graphic novels, video games, music, teen and adult books. Alice's trip to  Wonderland has permeated every aspect of popular culture and for good reason. This timeless fantasy by Lewis Carroll is WONDERful (haha), brimming with extraordinary characters and strange and marvelous happenings. I have read Alice's Adventures in Wonderland several times over the years and each time yields new surprises and WONDERs (I just cannot help myself).

As far as adaptations, I really enjoyed The Looking Glass Wars trilogy by Frank Beddor. These were written for teens, but I thought that Beddor's steampunk re-imagining of Alice in Wonderland was creative and extremely fun to read.

14. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Aahhh, a child's first foray into the geektastic world of Middle Earth. Fast and easy-to read (or at least easier), The Hobbit is an excellent introduction to Tolkien who, let's be honest, is the pinnacle of the entire fantasy genre.

Now should your young reader fall in love with The Hobbit be forewarned that the The Lord of the Rings trilogy is infinitely more complex and difficult to read. I am not saying that to discourage anyone from reading Tolkien, because it is AWESOME!!!!  However, Tolkien's writing is incredibly, like minutely, detailed and the manifold characters and story lines can be daunting for younger readers.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy is completely worth the effort so do not give up on it when it is not as action-packed and thrilling as the Peter Jackson films.

Want to know more, you can watch of my favorite youtube book vs. movie reviewers. I know he is kind of a dork, but then so am I, and I really enjoy listening to his point of view.

13. The BFG by Roald Dahl

The character of the Big Friendly Giant was actually introduced in Danny, the Champion of the World and it took Roald Dahl nearly a decade to give him his own book. Thankfully he did because the Gobblefunk speaking BFG who catches happy dreams and then blows them into the rooms of sleeping children is one of Dahl's most magical characters. As with The Witches, some people may think that The BFG is too scary for kids. I can see their point since there are also evil, children-gobbling giants with names like Bloodbottler, Gizzardgulper, Bonecruncher, etc. Dahl, being the master that he is, is able to temper this with hyperbole and humor so that it is not frightening for young readers.  i.e. Turks taste of Turkish Delight, Danish people taste like dogs, people from Wales are fishy, etc.

Kids will love how the BFG not only mixes up and confuses words, but also creates his own. Being a lit major I found it particularly amusing when the BFG refers to Charles Dickens as Dahls Chickens.

Supposedly Walt Disney is producing a live action adaptation of The BFG that is going to be directed by none other than Steven Spielberg. It is scheduled to be released Fourth of July weekend in 2016. This could be really good or really really bad, but I am definitely rooting for the former.

12. The Great Brain by John D. Fitzgerald
I have read The Great Brain (and every other book in the Great Brain series) more times than I can count and every time I make a fool of myself by crazy hyena laughing in a quiet room.  The book begins with Tom Fitzgerald (i.e. the Great Brain) selling tickets to see the first indoor toilet. How can you not want to read the book after that opening? Despite Tom's "money-loving heart" (and you will be in hysterics reading about all of his schemes) he does occasionally use his great brain to help his friends and town, as long as there is something in it for him.

11. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Oh, how I dreamed of finding a key that led to my own private sanctuary. I guess that first I would need to live on an estate with a vast walled-in garden (sigh). I recently reread The Secret Garden and I found it just as magical as I did when I was ten. The story of the orphan, Mary Lennox, and the revitalization that she undergoes when she is transplanted from India to England is so captivating. Looking at the climates you would think that it would be the opposite. Shouldn't warm, exotic, and sun-drenched India be more enlivening than the dreary England? Well, not true for Mary Lennox who goes from sickly, thin, and peevish to rosy-cheeked and happy. It is actually quite heartbreaking to think that Mary doesn't learn what it is like to give or receive love until after the death of her parents.

Nothing says 1983 like a side ponytail and a sparkly headband!
If you do not have the time to read the book there are several audio versions. I happen to really like the one that our library currently has in its collection. The reader is Finola Hughes, whom you may recognize as Anna Devane if you are an All My Children or General Hospital fan. OR her greatest role, the sparkly headband wearing dancer from 1983's Staying Alive. Anyway she has a great British voice that is perfect for reading The Secret Garden.
Come on, admit it. You are impressed that I could connect an 80s dance movie starring John Travolta to The Secret Garden.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Find a book

EBSCOhostMeL - Michigan eLibrary LogoLet's say your child just finished a book and they want to read another with a similar theme. You have a lot of options: ask a librarian, ask a friend, go to a book store or check on-line. This last option is what I want to write about today. If you are on-line and are searching for a book, check out MEL.org.    They have this great resource NoveList K-8. Your child just types the title of the book, the program will generate a list of suggestions based on what the child liked about the book. Click on the Mel or NoveList links to get started!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Online Storytime: Ladybug Girl at the Beach

One of the first books I read to my daughter was Ladybug Girl. I loved it from the start. Lulu is a young girl who has to play by herself. Her parents are busy and her brother is too busy playing a big boy game with his friends. At first she is irritated and bored because there is no one to play with her. However, she soon takes on the persona of Ladybug Girl and helps a line of ants by clearing their path, runs through a pond even though there might be a shark in it, and then saves a crumbly old wall! Of course she has many more adventures but she learns that she can entertain herself. This is just the the first book in the series all of which are enjoyable!
Here is another of my favorites Ladybug Girl at the Beach read by the authors David Soman and Jackie Davis provided by Barnes and Noble online storytime.