I wrote an account of our first experience taking Rose ‘to the movies,’ and it’s up on The Broad Collective’s website where I’ll be writing the occasional piece in family stuff in Athens, GA. If you have time, please take a look. There’s a lot of great writing over there from other folks as well.
There’s something I’ve noticed about most middle grades books involving magic. They all involve a character who is completely unversed in the world of magic being introduced to said world. Harry Potter knows nothing about magic, and so he has a sense of wonder and amazement every time he sees something as simple as using magic to open a door. It makes sense, since we are looking through the character’s eyes and being introduced to magic along with him or her, but at the same time it was incredibly refreshing to read a book that features a protagonist who is already immersed in a world of magic.
Cindy Cipriano’s The Circle is the first book in a new series about a boy who comes from a family of fae. At the book’s opening, Calum Ranson has already had plenty of adventures, including one that caused his cousin Finley to go missing. Calum has been in the human world for some time, forbidden from travelling back to the “Otherworld,” essentially a magical fairy land.
I won’t give away any spoilers, but most of the book centers around Calum’s desire to find his cousin, while being forced to stay in the “Realm of Man.” He meets a new human friend (Laurel) who is more involved than he realizes, and also pulls in another cousin in his quest to save Finley.
A lot of what I liked about The Circle came from the richness of the culture and world of Calum’s people. Cipriano has thought this all through very well, and you get the sense that she isn’t just coming up with it all on the fly. At the same time, she also captures the essence of middle school and trying to figure out who you really are at that age. Middle school readers will see themselves in this book, even though there are fairies and magic.
One thing that was missing, at least for me, was a pronunciation guide. There were a lot of names that were hard to figure out, and it would have been nice to have a guide in the back to help out with that. All the same, I suspect that most readers will decide how they want to pronounce the names, and pronounce them that way, whether it’s correct or not. It took me years to learn the right way to pronounce Princess Eilonwy’s name from The Black Cauldron, but that didn’t take away anything from my enjoyment of that book, and it was much the same with this one.
I will warn you that the ending doesn’t really wrap things up very neatly, and in some ways presents more questions rather than answers, but I actually appreciated that. Cipriano could have given us an easy solution, and then brought on a new problem for the second book, but instead it seems that the problem will continue into the second book instead. Overall, I enjoyed the book and would certainly recommend it to a middle grades reader who enjoys a good Harry Potter-esque book.
**I was provided with a promotional advanced copy of this book to review by the author**
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One of Rose’s favorite things in the world is story time at the library. We go twice a week, and it does an awfully good job at saving my sanity. It’s something to do, somewhere to go, and a way to socialize Rose.
Unfortunately, Rose has been sick since late last week. She’s on the mend, but still hasn’t been fever free for long enough to be around other kids, which means I have to find a way to keep from going stir-crazy today, and possibly tomorrow.
So what to do? Thankfully, it’s not raining, which means I can at least take her out to our fenced in backyard to play, but what else? I’m sure we’ll read quite a few books today. And yesterday I made a batch of oobleck to play with. (If you don’t know what it is, it’s based on the Dr. Seuss book Bartholomew and the Oobleck. Do a google search and you can find a recipe) so we’ll probably play with that somewhere.
If I really need to leave the house, I might take her to our little zoo, where there’s plenty of room to avoid other kids.
Next week, I will be more than ready for story time to resume. If you haven’t been to a story time at your local library, I highly recommend that you check it out. I’m not sure that they are all as good as mine, but they definitely support literacy in your rapidly learning child!
This is where books are in our house:
In a basket on a cart in the living room.
Of course, there are also stray books hidden in various places throughout the house. It’s like she’s a dog with like 15 different hiding places for various bones, but the bones are books and the hiding places aren’t very well thought out.
Today is Dr. Seuss’ birthday! Happy birthday, Dr. Seuss! In honor of such an auspicious day, I decided to make a list of my top ten Seuss characters. Keep in mind that this is my top ten. I know that you might disagree with some of these. This isn’t the greatest of all time by overall popularity, or the top ten most well known characters, it’s just the characters that are in my top ten. On to the list…
10. The Grinch–Yup, that Grinch. You might be asking why he’s so low on my list. I alwayliked the Grinch, but could never like him that much, simply because I’m Jewish and this is a Christmas book. At the same time, I do kind of identifywith him, since I become very Grinch-like every christmas.
9. The Cat in the Hat–Again, you probably want to know why the iconic character in the Dr. Seuss cannon is so low on my list. Let’s be honest, the cat in the hat is kind of a jerk. He’s that guy that’s always making you feel uncomfortable, making jokes that you aren’t sure are jokes, and then saying, “Nah man, I’m just kidding!” All the same, I had to include him.
8. Lazy Bird Mayzie–Let me explain. Mayzie makes my list because you can just imagine her voice. She spends a very small amount of time in Horton Hatches the Egg bullying Horton into sitting on her egg while she vacations in Palm Beach, and then wants her kid back when the egg hatches. Still, that imagined voice just sticks with you.
7. The goldfish–Yup, I put the dour goldfish from The Cat in the Hat higher on this list than the cat himself.
6. Sam-I-am–If you want to know more about my feelings toward Sam, check out this post. Sam, like the Cat, may be a jerk, but at least he’s trying to get someone to try something new.
5. Mr. Brown–Mr. Brown isn’t that memorable, but he can certainly make a lot of sounds. I put him on this list because Mr. Brown can Moo.
4. The Lorax–And here comes the character who has made The Lorax one of the most challenged books in libraries across the United States. A few of Seuss’ books send political messages, but the Lorax is the most obvious character to represent something more than what he is. He’s a symbol of what happens when we don’t take care of the environment, and it sends the message to our kids to make a change.
3. Mack the Turtle–Mack is the turtle who disrupts Yertle’s tower of turtles by burping. He knocks down a bully of a turtle, and reminds us that we shouldn’t just listen to someone because they’re stronger or more powerful.
2. Little Cindy Lou Who–I know, I know, I said I couldn’t put the Grinch high on this list because of the Christmas thing. But here’s the thing, Cindy Lou Who is just so adorable, and so innocent, and she also looks like Rose. So…
1. Horton the Elephant–How could Horton not be number one on my list? He’s loyal, he looks out for the little guy, and he’s forgiving. He gave us two great quotes: “A person’s a person, no matter how small,” and “An elephant’s faithful, one-hundred percent.” Horton is a great example to follow, and teaches fantastic lessons to our children. So Horton, in my book, you’re #1!
I just found out that children’s author Maurice Sendak died way back in May at the age of 83. Somehow this totally passed me by when it happened, but when I found out this morning, I had a pretty emotional response, so I thought I would write down my thoughts on the subject. Although he wrote or illustrated over a hundred books in his lifetime, for most of us his most memorable book will always be Where the Wild Things Are. There was something about that world of wild imagination that changed the children’s book forever. As a child, I read about Max and his pack of monsters too many times to count. The idea of sailing from my bedroom to a distant island was fascinating, and the Sendak illustrations were perfect for the concept. My wife has told me that as a child she would look out into the living room at night sometimes, and would swear that she could see the Wild Things dancing. The best part of that book, though, may have been the ending, and that realization that it’s awfully nice to be able to come back to your safe little life at the end of such outrageous imaginings.
So here’s to an amazing writer and illustrater. His Wild Rumpus will never end, as he continues to inspire countless generations of children on into the future.
If you have a an 18-20 month old like I do, you might find yourself trying to start to teach them the names for different parts of the body. For Rose, it started with her nose. I got her to the point where if I asked where her nose was, she would point to it. However, I wanted to find a way to teach more body parts to her, and what has helped most in getting her to master the concept of those different body parts has been reading her 3 different books.
All of Baby, Nose to Toes, by Victoria Adler, Pictures by Hiroe Nakata.
This was a book that we got through the Dolly Parton Imagination Library. On each two -page spread, a different body part is highlited: eyes, nose, ears, tummy, legs, and toes. The drawings are sweetly done water colors, and Rose loves seeing a picture of another baby!
Eyes and Nose, Fingers and Toes: A Sesame Beginnings Book
This is one we picked up at the Target bargain bins for a dollar. It uses baby versions of some of the sesame street characters and has a fun little rhyme. Short and to the point, Rose always wants me to read it more than once!
Horns to Toes and In Between by Sandra Boynton
It always comes back to Boynton, doesn’t it? This is one that uses adorable monsters to teach the different body parts, using fantastic rhymes. This is another one that is never read just once, as Rose points to her different body parts as we read through the book, and even pants with her tongue out on the page that has the monsters showing off their tongues!
I have noticed a huge difference in her understanding of body parts since we started reading these books, and I would highly recommend all three of them!
Now, point to your nose!
I recently received a copy of the middle-grades book Jack Templar, Monster Hunter by Jeff Gunhus for review, and quickly read it from start to finish. The book is targeted (as you can probably guess from the title) to middle school aged boys for the most part, and falls in the Harry Potter and Percy Jackson category of ‘boy finds out he’s special and enters a battle that has gone on long before him.’ In this case, Jack finds out that he comes from a long line of monster hunters, and that on his 14th birthday they will be allowed to attack him. His birthday brings on a number of other changes, as he suddenly is stronger, more agile, and has a lot more stamina. I won’t go over the entire plot in case you decide to give it a read, but of course Jack goes through considerable heartache and difficulty to reach his goal.
One of the things that I liked about the book was the stance it takes against bullying. There is a key scene where Jack stands up to the school bully in order to protect one of his friends. I am absolutely for any book that puts it into kids’ minds that bullying isn’t the right thing to do. While the characters aren’t completely fleshed out in this book, it’s clear that this is being set up as a series, so I imagine that as it goes on, those characters will be more fleshed out.
Even though this book is marketed towards boys, there were actually a lot of strong female characters, which is a good thing for boys to be reading about. Jack is taught about the monsters by Eva, a girl (and love interest), his aunt who raised him makes a very difficult sacrifice in order to save his life, and there is a promise of another very strong female character to come in the next book.
While this was not a perfect book and has its problems, so did the first Harry Potter. It was an enjoyable—and quick—read, and I would want to read the next entry in the series in order to find out what happens to Jack and all of his friends. The book provides some positive role models, and although there is some violence, it is almost all in the heat of battle, and usually involves the monsters. If you have a reluctant reader in middle school, this is the perfect book to get them excited about books.
Today’s featured banned book is:
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling
The seminal book in the series that has given more kids a reason to love reading than any other book in the history of publishing. I can’t for the life of me figure out why people would want to ban a book that gets kids to read. Celebrate Banned Books Week by reading a banned book!