Posts from the ‘coming of age’ Category

PANTS IN CHARGE

The Tyler Files #1: Smarty Pants

Written by Brian Rock

Illustrated by Joshua Dawson

Rock has created a clever chapter book that will keep readers chuckling and thinking long after they have finished reading it. Tyler is a fifth grader who experiences a unique problem. One day in school, his pants start talking to him. Tyler and his best friend, Paul, are mystified and neither can figure out how to solve the problem. As Tyler goes through his day at school, his pants’ chatter gets him in trouble at the library, in the gym, and how will he find the time to study for his math test? But his pants help him solve his problems with Rhino, the school bully, and allow him to impress Audrey, the girl he has a crush on. Will Tyler ever get his “smarty pants” to keep his mouth shut?

The author targets this book for readers in the seven to ten age range. It is a beginning chapter in the sense that the chapters are short and the font large. It also contains a few drawings done in Wimpy Kid style. The humor is infectious and appropriate to a fifth grader. I particularly enjoyed the extension activities at the end of the book. Rock asks what readers think about the characters and presents what-if scenarios to encourage further thinking about the plot. He includes fun facts and a few jokes to continue the fun.

I would recommend the book as a beginning chapter book for elementary school readers, but middle-grade students will also appreciate the quirky characters, humor, and coming of age sections of the plot.

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YOU GOTTA BELIEVE

Rusty and the Circus of Doubt

Written by G. Russell Reynolds

Illustrated by Sherrie Molitor

 

Rusty The Elephant lives in the circus. As a young boy, Rusty believed that he was destined for greater things. The Circus Boss berates Rusty when he doesn’t act like a “normal” elephant. All the other animals bully him. Over time, Rusty begins to lose confidence in himself. One night he cries out for help. A monkey appears and informs Rusty that he has the key to Rusty’s freedom. This monkey works step by step to encourage self-confidence and independence in Rusty. Soon Rusty no longer cares what the other animals think of him. Will Rusty ever achieve his dreams?

This International Book Excellence winner contains beautiful illustrations and a message to encourage children who experience a lack of self-confidence and fear of not fitting in with the crowd. While the book is targeted at children in the six to nine-year-old age group, I feel it is appropriate for older children as well. Well-written and highly recommended for all ages.

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STAR LIGHT, STAR BRIGHT

Alicia and the Light Bulb People in Star Factory 13

Written by Barbara Roman

Illustrated by Vladimir Cebu

Ten-year-old Alicia is shopping with her mother for new lamps. Her mood is upbeat as she walks through Walker’s Furniture store two weeks before Christmas. Suddenly, she is mesmerized by a beautiful Christmas tree which appears in the middle of the floor. Alicia stares at its beautiful star and is whisked away to the 13th floor on an elevator that opens to a light bulb factory. She finds herself in a factory where light bulbs are retired after they stop working. Alicia meets Carelia, the fairy goddess who oversees the factory. Carelia informs Alicia that the light bulbs must pass a test to determine whether they might become stars and that she needs Alicia to help her. Alicia is confused and upset. She doesn’t understand why she is needed and how she wound up in a place where there is no past or tomorrow, but she will learn much about unique personalities, utilizing our talents, and working cooperatively. What is expected of her and why was she chosen? Will Alicia ever get back to her world? Did she ever leave it?

This book is a charming fantasy, mystery, and science fiction read. It might be considered both a chapter book or a short story. The fifty-page length makes it a good choice for reluctant readers. Cebu creates dazzling illustrations and the large font size make it a good choice for beginning readers, while the intricate plot and well-developed characters will appeal to middle-grade and young adult audiences.

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STRANGER DANGER

The Rocking Horse

Written by Karrie Loomis

I enjoyed reading this chapter book centering on Michaela and Sylvia, two ten and eight-year-old sisters who appear to have little in common. One day while playing in the backyard, they decide to take a walk and get lost. They encounter a ghostly, creepy house. Sylvia persuades her older sister to investigate and the adventure ensues.

While inside the girls discover a rocking horse. Upon riding it, a young ghost named Cindy taunts and threatens them. Michaela tries to calm her sister by spinning a tale, but both girls are afraid they will never see their parents and baby brother again. Throughout the ordeal, the sisters uncover little-known truths about themselves. Cindy reveals a compassionate side of herself and a lesson about strangers the girls will never forget.

This short chapter book of approximately one hundred pages has a powerful safety lesson for its young readers. It is most appropriate for children in the eight-to twelve-year-old age range but certainly an enjoyable read for any age.

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PAYBACK

Max’s Revenge

Written by Sally Gould

This is the first book in a series of books revolving on the main character, Max. Max always seems to get the short end of the stick. His older brother, Charlie, is perceived to be perfect. In the first story, the siblings are invited to the wedding of their Uncle Dan. But before the vows are exchanged, Charlie lures Max into a trap that ends with his falling out of a tree and disrupting the wedding. Things further deteriorate at the wedding reception, when Charlie attracts the flower girl, Lucy, who Max adores. Charlie becomes a partner in crime with the bartender and Sophie’s three brothers who conspire to booby trap the marriage getaway car. To make matters worse, Max’s evil Aunt schemes to get Max into trouble. Of course, Max finds devious ways to get his revenge.

The second story centers around Charlie and Max’s visit to their Nana’s house. A social worker has persuaded the boys’ parents to take a much-needed break. While at Nana’s house, the boys discover that the evil Aunt is trying to get Nana to sell her house. The boys get their revenge on their Aunt and try to prevent the sale. They plan several pranks to thwart the sale, but they discover Nana secretly wants to move. How will they undo the damage? The hilarious result will be that Max has to eat dog food stew.

Children in grades three to six will find themselves empathizing with poor Max. Perhaps they have a relative like Max’s evil Aunt. The comedy is spot on and the dialogue appears genuine and age appropriate. Length of the stories is not too long so the book will appeal to reluctant readers. Perfect choice for a summer read.

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GENTLE SOULS

The Horse Listener

Written by Mark M. Hanna

 

This book describes the affinity of one man with the Arabian horse. It focuses on the tragic death of his father, his early upbringing near a racetrack in Los Angeles, and his move out into the country of Oregon where he began his lifelong journey of faith and close relationship with Arabian horses.

Matthew Peters struggles to find himself. When his mother accedes to his wish to acquire a horse, Matthew meets a neighbor named Mike Chapman who appears to know a lot about horses and how to raise them. Mrs. Peters notices a strangeness in Mike; she discovers Mike’s tragic divorce and horse farm bankruptcy. The author tells his story partly as a faith journey, partly as a spiritual partnership with the horse, and also as a memoir of determination and courage. There are plenty of tips concerning effective horse training.

This story tugs at the heartstrings. For anyone who raises horses or wishes to have the opportunity to do so, the powerful bond described here is appealing and inspiring. Hanna includes spiritual references, though he does not try to preach or convert.

This book is recommended for middle-grade readers, young adults, and adults.

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WITTY AND WONDERFUL

20 Degrees from Normal: Creative Poems for All Ages

Written by Anissa Ferris and Antonio Ferris
Illustrated by Fanny Liem

This brother and sister duo has put together a wonderful collection of poems that address a plethora of topics with skill and humor. Almost anyone can find several that will strike a responsive chord. Readers, young and old, will find themselves agreeing with the futility of getting rid of a fly that has entered the house and the annoyance of a leaky faucet. Teenagers will not be able to avoid laughing at the two poems presenting a teenager’s and a parent’s point of view. The importance of everyday objects like the wheel and a lighthouse are simple poems that point out the importance of objects used and seen every day. I really could not stop laughing while reading the poem about a pet spider and the smartest phone. On a more serious note, the authors strike a chord with the poem about a teacher’s real responsibility and the poem which encourages us to soar by realizing that each new challenge entails possible risks.

This collection is certainly enhanced by the double-page spread illustrations of Fanny Liem. They are big, bold and vibrant drawing the eye right into the text. I would highly recommend this collection for any family’s bookshelf. Students in the middle grades and older will be able to fully appreciate the messages of the poems.

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