Posts from the ‘coming of age’ Category

Gone, but not forgotten

The Yellow Suitcase

Written by Meera Sriram

Illustrated by Meera Sethi

Asha arrives at her grandmother’s house in India from California for her yearly visit, clutching her yellow suitcase. Each year Asha packs her suitcase with gifts for her grandmother and returns with little treasures that her grandmother has created for her. But this year the house is filled with relatives mourning her grandmother’s death. Asha struggles through her grief and becomes inconsolable until it is time to leave. She finds a wonderful gift that her grandmother has made for Asha just before she died.

This multicultural book is a colorful introduction to Indian culture and customs as well as a well-written book to help children understand the death of a close relative and the grieving process. Sethi’s hand-drawn illustrations are vivid and expressive. Perhaps the text could have been a bit larger, but the design of the book is clear and easy to read. Recommended for ages eight and older.

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BILLY AND BOB’S BLUNDERS

Lost in Lithuania and other funny stories

Written by Alex Goodwin

 

This is my first time reading a book in this series. Goodwin is a thirteen-year-old author with a wonderful imagination and a creative mind. Bob and Billy are two obese friends who decide that they must get in shape. They abruptly decide to enter a curling contest, even though they have no knowledge of the game. The friends discover a note that they have been fired from their jobs in San Francisco, so they hurry to board a plant to get back. Alas! Bob and Billy board the wrong plane and wind up in Lithuania. Now broke, they answer an ad for a job in a bakery for which they have no background and cannot speak the language. When the disgruntled patrons attack them, Bob and Billy flee for their lives and stumble across an abandoned castle where they become tour guides. The two tell a lot of lies, but they become quite adept at their profession. Determined to return home, at last, they are foiled when all their money falls through a hole in their baggage. So, they write to their uncle and secure employment, only to find they will be making aglets for shoelaces on an assembly line. And so, the stories go on… Will Billy and Bob ever make it back home to their jobs at the nuclear plant in Death Valley?

Goodwin writes crisp, catchy dialogue that is as hilarious as it is preposterous. He manages to weave a link between the short stories to create a cohesive plot. The tales are clean, good fun. Readers ages ten and older won’t stop laughing till the last line.

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I’M SPECIAL

Born to Be Different!: For all the special kids in the world!

Written by John Rigoli

Illustrated by Holly Withers

This is a cute story about a boy named Ollie who experiences ridicule because he is different. Ollie thinks his eyes, clothes, skin, and clothes are different from everybody else. He decides he wants to be normal. But when he speaks with his grandfather, Ollie learns that it is our unique features that make us special. If everyone looked the same, no one would be able to distinguish one person from another. Ollie learns to appreciate himself and celebrate his differences.

The subtitle of this book might confuse some readers at first. One might be led to believe that the book is about children with disabilities or special talents. This book has simple illustrations which make it especially appropriate for younger children. Recommended for preschool and elementary school children as a discussion book about self-esteem and acceptance.

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THREE STARS FOR ADULTS, FIVE FOR KIDS

My Giant Farts

Written by Neil Roy McFarlane

 

This book might be considered a fractured fairy tale with humor in the vein of Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Personally, I am not a fan of this kind of humor, but I do know how popular it is with middle grade students.

The plot involves Tom, a boy who is playing down by the old factory and comes across a pile of rubbish. He spies a shiny metal object sticking out. Tom discovers a lamp like Aladdin’s lamp, so he rubs it. Instead of a genie, a giant pops out. Tom thinks he can make wishes. He asks for a time machine and a flying car but the giant informs Tom that he cannot grant wishes.

During the day, Tom meets a few of his friends. Sally Patterson shows him her new dog who fetches, Horace Chomsky demonstrates how his parrot talks and Becky Wilkinson shows him her flea that does circus tricks. Tom is dismayed that his giant has no unique qualities. But when Tom crosses paths with Basher Bates and his gang, the giant’s response is an unexpected relief.

This book is targeted for ages five and older. I believe eight to twelve-year-old readers will particularly find it to their liking.

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AN EYE FOR DETAIL

At Your Service!: Blondie McGhee Detective Series: Funny Detective Stories

Written by Ashley Eneriz

 

The first book in a detective series based on fourth grade Graham Elementary student Blondie McGhee. Blondie became interested in mysteries when her Grandmother gave her a detective kit when she was in third grade. As the story opens Blondie is excited to begin fourth grade. She is eager to recruit students at the school who have a mystery to solve.
One week passes by with no case in site. Blondie fears she has not advertised enough so she stands on the lunch table and offers her detective services to all the students. All seem to ignore her, except Owen Thomas who claims there is a mysterious noise coming from the janitor’s closet. Blondie makes an excuse to leave class and investigates. She is horrified when Mike, a friend of Owen, is hiding inside dressed as a monster. The three students are in big trouble; Blondie is a laughingstock. Blondie feels a little better after her mother shares her own embarrassing school story, but Blondie is reluctant about returning to school. She is shocked when Owen comes to her door to apologize and beg her help to solve a real mystery.

Blondie is back on the case of the Tuesday Food Fight. She methodically follows the clues until this genuine mystery is solved. Blondie wins back her credibility and reputation. There will be many more mysteries to solve in the next books of the series.

The author recommends her series for girls in the nine to twelve age range. I think boys will enjoy them as well. The book-length of fewer than one hundred pages and adorable black and white illustrations allow the stories to appeal to reluctant readers and advanced beginning readers as well. Detective story fans mark this series as one to add to your collection.

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TAMING THE BEAST

The Monster Under the Bed: Uncovering the Lie that Drives Us

Written by Kim Fiske

This is a thought-provoking book. Fiske believes that what we know of ourselves was developed in our brains at the age of four or five. She wants to explore our fears by producing awareness of the areas of conflict in our lives, asking ourselves is there a monster under our bed, understanding how that monster was created and what is its purpose, and finally deciding what can be done about it in our lives today.

Fiske believes that the fears that haunt adults were developed in our young brains and persist in adult lives filled with stress, financial insecurities, technological dependence and a sense of self-loathing. All these factors exacerbate the fears and test our spiritual and personal boundaries. We become the product of what our emotions decide that we are.

The author believes that by understanding how these fears came to be a part of us and learning how to love them as a part of ourselves we can work to rewire our brain and value ourselves for what we are today. This is an interesting read for young adults and adults who enjoy a challenging read and are not afraid to explore their psyche.

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A BIRD’S-EYE VIEW

Timber View Camp

Written by Jason Deas

Sally and Reggie are fifth-grade friends who are also neighbors. When Sally receives a free “golden ticket” to attend Timber View Camp, she is upset about leaving her home this summer. Her fears are somewhat alleviated when Reggie also wins a ticket.

When the day to leave for camp arrives, they are dismayed to see an ugly purple double-decker bus with a strange driver who speaks in rhyme pick them up. The pair is even more alarmed when they are dropped off in the middle of nowhere with only a four-part riddle to guide them. By pulling together the campers dub themselves the 12 up and use each of their talents to survive and make it to the campground.

Things keep getting weirder as Reggie and Sally, along with their new friends, fear that they are being watched and followed. Tony and Sissy, their counselors, mysteriously disappear as the odd events unfold. The campers cleverly team up with Cynthia, whose family works at the camp, to develop a plan to expose the owners and turn the tables on them.

This mystery contains wonderful characters, clever plot lines, and lots of humor to accompany the mystery. Young detectives will have to use their smarts to solve it.

Highly recommended for readers ages nine and older.

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