Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Adventure stories for kids: Seven wonders, giant-slayers, and a skibberee

So ... what's a skibberee? Read What-the-Dickens by Gregory McGuire and you'll find out .... There's lots more adventure in these books, from a boy transported to a redwood forest from the subway, to the trials of Bob, the castle rat caught by the King's two cats, Muffin and Brutus. Be sure to look for these books here on BookBag using the World Catalog and Amazon search boxes, and get ready for some exciting reading that will keep you turning the pages!

How to Save Your Tail*: *If You are a Rat Nabbed by Cats Who Really Like Stories about Magic Spoons, Wolves with Snout-Warts, Big, Hairy Chimney Trolls -- and Cookies Too, by Mary Elizabeth Hanson (Schwartz & Wade Books) Fractured Fairy Tales. Bob the castle rat loves to read almost as much as he loves to bake, and it's a good thing--because the stories he reads end up saving his life! Distracted by a book on a bench, Bob is caught by palace cats Muffin and Brutus, who plan to make a meal out of him. Thankfully, Bob is able to stall by telling the cats stories about his ancestors (all of which bear striking resemblance to well-known fairy tales) and feeding them some of his freshly-baked cookies. But how long can he postpone being eaten by the fearful felines? Pick up this quick, funny read and find out.

The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs, by Betty G. Birney; illustrated by Matt Phelan (Atheneum Books for Young Readers) Historical Fiction. Fascinated by stories of the Seven Wonders of the World, 12-year-old Eben McAllister longs to leave the small town of Sassafras Springs, Missouri and see some of them for himself. But no one else from Sassafras seems eager to go exploring, so Eben figures he's stuck on the farm with his folks until he grows up. Then Pa makes a deal with him: if Eben can find seven true wonders right in Sassafras Springs, he gets to take a train trip out West and have an adventure after all. Set in 1923, this old-fashioned yarn shows that even places and things that seem ordinary can have extraordinarily magical stories to tell.

Redwoods, by Jason Chin (Roaring Brook Press) Picture Book. If you've ever heard or read a great story, you probably understand what people mean when they say that books transport them to completely different worlds. Well, when the boy in this story finds a book about redwoods on a subway-platform bench, it really happens! The boy begins reading amazing facts about the giant trees while riding the subway, and when he climbs the stairs that lead to the city street, he instead finds himself smack in the middle of a redwood forest. Combining thrilling adventure (in the illustrations) with fascinating facts (in the text), this book is big -- really big! -- fun.

What-the-Dickens: The Story of a Rogue Tooth Fairy, by Gregory Maguire (Candlewick Press) Fantasy. Ten-year-old Dinah, her brother Zeke, and their baby sister Rebecca Ruth are stranded in their remote home while a terrible storm rages. Only their inept older cousin Gage is there with them, but he has almost no practical survival skills. So, to pass the time and ease their fear, Gage tells the story of What-the-Dickens, a newly hatched orphan creature who doesn't realize that he is a skibberee--a tooth fairy. After meeting a number of beings who are not like him (a cat named McCavity, a tiger, a bird, even people), What-the-Dickens eventually meets Pepper, another skibberee who shows him what being a tooth fairy is all about. And as Gage spins the tale through the night, the storm rampages on...

The Giant-Slayer, by Iain Lawrence (Delacorte Press) Historical Fiction. Shy, quiet dreamer Laurie Valentine has no friends at all until she meets Dickie Espinosa. The two of them range all over their 1950s neighborhood exploring and playing--until Dickie comes down with polio and is confined to an iron lung. Laurie sneaks into the hospital to visit Dickie and begins spinning a fantastical tale that spreads over many visits, a heroic adventure in which a young boy must slay an enormous giant (with the help of all manner of interesting and unusual characters). We won't tell you what power Laurie's amazing story holds; read The Giant-Slayer and decide for yourself.

Travels of Thelonious, by Susan Schade and Jon Buller (Simon & Schuster) Animal Fantasy. Thelonious Chipmunk is the only member of his family who believes that, in ancient times, human beings ruled the Earth (most everyone else thinks that the legends about humans are just old stories--entertaining, maybe, but not true). When the tree that he lives in is swept downstream in a huge storm, Thelonious finds himself in the City of Ruins, where he joins a porcupine librarian and a helicopter-flying bear in their dangerous quest to discover the truth about Earth's past. Alternating written chapters with comic-book chapters, this first volume of the Fog Mound series is a story that both intrigues and inspires.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Let's go camping!

If you like to go camping, or even never tried pitching your own tent, there are some great books to read for every level of interest in the great outdoors. Even fiction stories (for those who might like to just read about it.) Here is a very short selection of books available at your library -- find them near you using BookBag's World Catalog search box -- or buy a copy through the Amazon.com search box. Either way, summer's a great time to spend some time under the stars!

Camp Out! by Lynn Brunelle, Brian Biggs, and Elara Tanguy (Workman) Nonfiction. If you're eager to go camping but don't know how to set up a campsite, how to cook food in the great outdoors, or what to do while you're camping, then this is the book for you. Covering everything from planning a camping trip to leaving your campsite as pristine as it was when you arrived--and with a lot of helpful information and fun ideas for activities in between--this entertaining guide is sure to have you camping out in the woods (or maybe just in your backyard) in no time!

The Daring Book for Girls, by Andrea J. Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz; illustrated by Alexis Seabrook (Collins) Nonfiction. From lists of campfire songs, hiking tips, and essential gear (such as a pocket knife and flashlight) to instruction on how to paddle a canoe, tie knots, and build a campfire, this friendly, informative book includes a lot of advice on camping--and a whole lot of other great stuff. Plus, it's packed with fascinating facts as well as games, crafts, and other fun activities to do while you're basking in the great outdoors, including ghost stories to tell after dark. And look for the boys' companion book,
The Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn Iggulden.

Earthquake Terror, by Peg Kehret (Puffin Books) Fiction. When the Palmer family goes to a remote island for a camping trip, they get way more adventure than they'd bargained for after Mom breaks her ankle. Twelve-year-old Jonathan and his physically disabled sister, Abby, stay at the campsite with the family dog so their parents can get to a hospital faster, and Jonathan feels confident that he can take care of things until his dad comes back...but then a terrible earthquake strikes. This may not be the best book to take along on a camping trip, but it's an exciting suspenseful survival adventure that thriller fans can enjoy in the comfort and safety of their own homes.

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disasters, by Lenore Look; illustrated by LeUyen Pham (Schwartz & Wade Books) Fiction. Alvin Ho is a nervous kid--the type who, when his dad wants to take him camping, wonders what's so great about the "great outdoors." Besides the fact that it gets really dark outside (and Alvin is afraid of the dark), he worries about hurricanes and landslides, wild animals, poison ivy, spiders, and, well, just being in the woods. But even though he's scared, Alvin is a good sport, and this funny, feel-good story of his misadventures while roughing it is a great read for any kid who isn't gung-ho about sleeping under the stars. Want to read more about Alvin? Check out the 1st book in this series,
Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things.

Amelia's Itchy-Twitchy, Lovey-Dovey Summer at Camp Mosquito, by Marissa Moss (Simon & Schuster) Fiction. Despite the promise of hard mattresses, biting bugs, and exhausting hikes, Amelia finally agrees to go to sleepaway camp when she learns that her best friend, Carly, is going. But when she gets her first serious crush on a boy named Luke, who's a cartoonist like her, Amelia is stunned to find out that Carly likes him too. If you like Amelia's funny, realistic way of writing and the illustrations in her notebooks (of which there are now 24!) and want another entertaining camping tale, check out Ruth McNally Barshaw's Ellie McDoodle: Have Pen, Will Travel.

Made You Look, by Diane Roberts (Delacorte) Fiction. Sixth-grader Jason Percy and his best friend Freddy are huge fans of the TV game show Masquerade Mania, so when Jason learns that his family is headed to Los Angeles (where the show is filmed) on vacation, he's super-excited. But that's before he understands that his dad plans for them to drive, rather than fly, from Texas to California and camp in their pop-up Camp'otel along the way. Hilarious mini-disasters involving pink underwear, sudden downpours, and a papier-mâché dinosaur head will keep you rolling with laughter throughout this fun, fast-paced read.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

New books for kids:going green, arctic survival, and a dog mystery

There's adventure, arctic survival at 40 degrees below zero, and even a canine mystery for kids who want to stay cool this summer and read. Look for these fiction and non-fiction titles on BookBag using the Amazon.com and World Catalog search boxes.

The Fast and the Furriest, by Andy Behrens (Alfred A. Knopf) Fiction. Twelve-year-old couch-potato Kevin Pugh is looking forward to a lazy summer of playing video games and watching TV, but his football-hero father wants him to go to sports camp. When Kevin stumbles across a broadcast of the Purina Incredible Dog Challenge while channel-surfing, he has a great idea: he'll enroll his portly beagle, Cromwell, in agility classes! But can he convince his dad that leading Cromwell through a doggie obstacle course counts as a sport? This hilarious, feel-good story has great characters and lots of family drama and is sure to be a winner with dog lovers.

The Buddy Files: The Case of the Lost Boy, by Dori Hillestad Butler; illustrated by Jeremy Tugeau (Albert Whitman) Mystery. When King, a golden retriever, finds himself at the P-O-U-N-D, he can't believe that his family would leave him there. Are the good times that King had solving mysteries with his beloved human, Kayla, gone forever? Before King can figure out a way to escape, he's adopted by a boy named Connor and his mom, who re-name him Buddy. Buddy is still determined to locate his real family, but just when he's getting settled at his new home, Connor disappears -- and Buddy intends to find him! This very funny, suspenseful, and easy-to-read story is told in the dog's voice and is the first of three books (so far) in the Buddy Files series.

Survival at 40 Below, by Debbie S. Miller; illustrated by Jon Van Zyle (Walker & Company) Nonfiction Picture Book. Talk about extreme! Winter is rough and very, very cold in Alaska's Arctic National Park, but many different types of wildlife flourish there, and this follow-up to the award-winning Arctic Lights, Arctic Nights describes the brutal conditions that they endure. From hibernating ground squirrels to bears, foxes, musk oxen, and wood frogs that literally freeze and then thaw out in the spring, each tundra animal has a different survival strategy that Survival at 40 Below explains in fascinating detail.

Mallory Goes Green! by Laurie B. Friedman; illustrated by Jennifer Kalis (Carolrhoda Books) Realistic Fiction. Mallory has a new favorite color--green! Inspired by her school's new Environmental Committee, she's excited about doing whatever she can to save the Earth. But when Mallory is chosen to represent her class at the schoolwide Green Fair, she gets a little too excited. Before long, no one wants to hear her "expert" opinions about going green, and they really don't appreciate the tickets that she's started issuing to energy-wasters. Can Mallory find a way save the planet and her friendships? Fans of characters like Junie B. Jones and Judy Moody should also enjoy the Mallory McDonald series, of which this is the 13th book.

The Fizzy Whiz Kid, by Maiya Williams (Amulet Books) Fiction. It's tough enough to be the new kid at school, but when sixth-grader Mitch Mathis and his family move to Hollywood, Mitch finds himself surrounded by sophisticated, TV- and movie-obsessed classmates. Mitch doesn't even watch TV and is clueless about show biz. So, when he learns that there's a casting call for a Fizzy
hiz soda commercial, Mitch auditions in an attempt to fit in -- and gets the part! Suddenly he's famous. But is stardom all it's cracked up to be? Full of realistic details about the entertainment industry, The Fizzy Whiz Kid is a fun, goofy yet realistic read.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

For Dad's day, a list of best-ever baseball books

It's Father's Day, and baseball season is in full swing. While kids may be thinking "gee, my dad always can use another tie," Dad may enjoy a good book while the kids are splashing in the pool (and before he has to fire up the barbeque). From Levi Asher's Literary Kicks website, here's a selection of baseball books for Dad that teens may like, too. Look for these on Amazon and World Catalog by using the search boxes here on BookBag -- and maybe give Dad a break from the grill today.

Bang the Drum Slowly, by Mark Harris: The story of a smart pitcher and his dumb, ill-fated catcher, this novel will draw tears from even the hardest-hearted Yankees fans. Any of Harris’s baseball novels are worth reading -- The Southpaw, Ticket for a Steamstitch -- but this one will make you cry. The closing pages of Bang the Drum Slowly rank right up there with The Great Gatsby in my personal literary ballpark. "From here on in, I rag nobody.” It’s one of the few great baseball books made into a good movie, starring Robert DeNiro and Michael Moriarty.

Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings by Bill Brashler: Though fiction, this novel accurately depicts life on the Negro League barnstorming circuit during the bleakest days of segregated baseball. The book is dedicated to Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige, and Cool Papa Bell, three of the best players in history, who also appear in the story. John Badham actually made a pretty decent movie out of this, starring James Earl Jones and Richard Pryor, in 1976. It’s probably the most truthful portrait of a barnstorming team in the days of segregated baseball.

The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop. by Robert Coover: A proto-Rotisserie League set in Dante’s Inferno, Coover’s book is disturbing in all the right ways. Henry Waugh is a paunchy Everyman whose real life is falling asunder, so each night he retreats into a fantasy baseball game he’d originally invented to kill some time. As he begins to invest his emotions upon every outcome, the game takes over his life like a psychological kudzu and, well, you can guess the rest.

A False Spring by Pat Jordan: A minor league pitcher confronts the weighty issues of existence and gets the hell beat out of him by Elrod Hendricks in the bargain. Jordan bases this remarkable novel on his own experience as a promising pitcher in the Braves organization. The title refers to the collapse of that promise, as the cruel arm of fate tosses him some unhittable curveballs, all of this beneath the impossibly huge skies of McCook, Nebraska.

You Know Me, Al: A Busher’s Letters by Ring Lardner, Jr.: Until the Black Sox scandal, Lardner was baseball’s biggest, most perceptive fan. These fictional letters, first serialized in Chicago newspapers in the second decade of the 20th century have his patented ear and eye, among the greatest in literature. Written in the form of letters from rookie pitcher Jack Keefe to his pal Al back in Indiana, this novel is his finest. Keefe was an American original, noted critic Jonathan Yardley -- who wrote a superb biography of Lardner -- whose “expression of the vernacular ... had a lasting effect on the way American writers describe American talk.” Lardner published an entertaining sequel to this book called Alibi Ike.

The Natural by Bernard Malamud: Even though Malamud was swinging for the metaphysical fences with this novel -- attempting, as he did in all of his fiction, to pit good against evil -- he got enough of the idiom and the action right to have come damn close to the perfect morality play. A bat called Wonderboy carved from a tree cloven by a thunderbolt?

The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant by Douglas Wallop: Inspiration for Broadway’s Damn Yankees, this old yarn hits all the right diehard fan buttons. Joe Hardy arrives out for nowhere, two years after Malamud’s Roy Hobbs did the same thing in The Natural. Only Wallop’s book has a happy ending. That is, Joe Hardy -- er, Boyd -- is reunited with his long-suffering wife, but more importantly, the damn Yankees lose the pennant to the pitiful Washington Senators.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

New fiction and non-fiction for teens

From Stonehenge to baseball, alchemy to fantasy, there's bound to be a book here to keep you turning the pages! Here's a wide selection of new fiction and non-fiction books for teens -- look for any of them on the World Catalog / Amazon search boxes here at BookBag ....

If Stones Could Speak, by Marc Aronson with Mike Parker Pearson (National Geographic) Nonfiction. When author Marc Aronson was in middle school, he was entranced by archaeologists and their adventures in digging up history's secrets, but he feared that "everything important [...] had already been found." However, in this clearly written and fascinating book, Aronson explains archaeologist Mike Parker Pearson's work interpreting Stonehenge and uses it as an example of how scientists are constantly looking for (and often find) information that adds to or completely changes our understanding of historical artifacts. So, what IS Stonehenge? Is it a Druid temple? A calendar? Or something else? Read the evidence presented in If Stones Could Speak and decide for yourself.

The Line, by Teri Hall (Dial Books) Science Fiction. Rachel and her mother live and work on a property that abuts the Line, an invisible barrier between the totalitarian Unified States and the no-man's land known as Away. Populated by the mysterious Others, the forbidden land has always fascinated Rachel...and when she stumbles upon a desperate message from an Other, she can't resist trying to help. This suspenseful story of a frightening possible future starts out slowly, but it builds to a cliffhanger ending that will have science fiction and thriller fans alike clamoring for the next volume in this new series.

Alchemy and Meggy Swann, by Karen Cushman (Clarion Books) Historical Fiction. After living with her indifferent mother in a small English village for 13 years, Margret ("Meggy") Swann has come to grimy, bustling London to live with her father, an alchemist whom she's never met--and who, as it turns out, doesn't want her any more than her mother did. But despite her father's rejection and a physical disability that makes people wary of her, Meggy is determined to make a better life for herself. Combining a resilient heroine, vivid depictions of Elizabethan England, and a bit of a mystery (plus loads of colorful period insults!), Alchemy and Meggy Swann is a memorable tale that history buffs will savor.

Falling In, by Frances O'Roark Dowell (Atheneum Books) Fantasy. When she is sent to the principal's office one day for daydreaming in class, oddball sixth-grader Isabelle Bean opens a supply-closet door...and falls into a completely different world! More curious than frightened, she begins exploring and meets a group of children who are fleeing from a supposedly murderous witch. Isabelle, intrigued, marches off in the exact direction that the children warned her to avoid, hoping that she will meet the witch. Suspenseful, often funny, and (like Isabelle) surprising, Falling In is a novel that even those who don't typically like fantasy might enjoy.

Roberto & Me, by Dan Gutman (Harper) Fiction. In this 10th volume of the Baseball Card Adventures series (which began with Honus & Me), Joe "Stosh" Stoshack uses a baseball card to travel back in time to 1969. He means to prevent the untimely death of baseball legend Roberto Clemente by warning him not to board a plane that's doomed to crash, but there are surprises in store for Stosh -- as well as for series fans -- on this journey. With exciting on-field action, humor, and tantalizing bits of history, this fun, fast-paced read knocks it out of the park.

Forget-Her-Nots, by Amy Brecount White (Greenwillow Books) Fiction. Laurel, a new student at Avondale boarding school, has been studying the Victorian language of flowers and handing out bouquets that have ... consequences. The flowers that she arranges for a class project seem to cause her spinster teacher to fall in love, while a classmate starts attracting boys like crazy after receiving one of Laurel's "tussie-mussies." And, as Laurel tries to harness her newfound power, she stirs up enough chaos to make for an extremely interesting prom. This light romance has a magical feel and will charm anyone with an interest in flowers' hidden meanings.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Don't just sit there! Stuff to do this summer

If you and your friends are sitting around this summer looking for something exciting to do, here's a group of books with some big ideas. From making money to photography, summer's a great time to try something new! Be sure to look for these books with the World Catalog and Amazon search boxes here on BookBag, and discover your own new talents -- or explore ones you already have!

Quick Cash for Teens, by Peter G. Bielagus (Sterling) Nonfiction. Are you looking for ways to make some money this summer? Quick Cash for Teens tells how to discover your niche and create a business that is simple, makes use of your skills, and is what author Peter Bielagus calls a "self-seller." Providing details about how to create business and marketing plans, win customers, account for business finances, and more, this book is a great resource for aspiring entrepreneurs. And, if you aren't sure what sort of business you might start, there's a list of 101 of them complete with the required materials, timeline information, start-up costs, and basic things you need to learn for each one.

Teens Cook, by Megan and Jill Carle, with Judi Carle (Ten Speed Press) Nonfiction. If you'd love to learn to cook but don't know where to start, give this basic and fun book a try. Including recipes for both meat-eaters and vegetarians that range from steak fajitas and baked mac and cheese to loaded potato skins, soups, desserts, snacks, cookies, breakfast, and more, Teens Cook offers clear instructions, loads of photos, and advice on avoiding kitchen disasters. For more great cookbooks geared toward teens but that offer somewhat lighter, healthier fare, try Sam Stern's Cooking Up a Storm or Rozanne Gold's Eat Fresh Food.

Digital Photo Madness, by Thom Gaines (Lark Books) Nonfiction. If you have access to a digital camera and a computer, there's a lot you can do with the pictures you take -- and Digital Photo Madness tells you how. First, author Thom Gaines covers the basics of photography, so you'll start out with better photos. Then he moves on to instructions for a wealth of creative projects, such as altering images to make pop art, combining multiple photos in cool ways, and fiddling with the colors in your shots. This book will put you well on your way to becoming a 21st-century shutterbug!

Show Off: How to Do Absolutely Everything One Step at a Time, by Sarah Hines-Stephens and Bethany Mann (Candlewick Press) Nonfiction. This hilarious book provides simple, step-by-step instructions (in pictures!) for how to do "224 fun, freaky, and fabulous things." Some of them are art projects, like making your own manga, and others involve science, culinary adventures, physical prowess (for walking on your hands or running a ninja obstacle course), or just pure awesome-ness. Special icons throughout the book indicate how long each activity takes, whether it makes a mess, and so on. Amuse yourself--and amaze your friends!--with this surprising and slightly kooky manual on "how to do absolutely everything."

Amazing Rubber Band Cars, by Mike Rigsby (Chicago Review Press) Nonfiction. Got a pencil, some cardboard, and a rubber band? You can make your own race-worthy model car (the simplest design in this book). With a little patience and some additional components, such as old computer CDs, you can make other types of moving vehicles, too--including a life-sized rubber band car (that is, one that's big enough for a person to ride in it). With clearly written instructions and some projects that are sophisticated enough to be used for science class, Amazing Rubber Band Cars is just one of many antidotes to boredom that you can find at the library.

Stuff to Hold Your Stuff, by Ellen Warwick; illustrated by Bernice Lum (Kids Can Press) Nonfiction. If you have conquered the basics of using a sewing machine, this book will show you how to translate those skills into a variety of fantastic bags, totes, travel accessories, school gear, and more--like the title says, all kinds of "stuff to hold your stuff." For different ways to make bags, purses, and accessories, check out Shannon Okey's Knitgrrl and especially Knitgrrl 2; for more sewing and fashion ideas, check out Sheila Zent's Sew Teen.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

New mystery and fantasy for YA readers

Lots of books for readers of all ages are published by writers who use the self-publishing tools available everywhere, as well as the small publishers who use the internet to spread the word and don't depend on bookstore shelf-space to get attention. Here's just a short selection of new novels that are filled with action, adventure and fantasy available by self-publishers (and in book form, too). Look for them using the Amazon and World Catalog search boxes here on BookBag!

The Lake, by William Crawford (BookSurge Publishing) The Lake is a novel that is part science fiction, part environmental commentary. A group of people threatened by a truly curious natural disaster confront the vulnerability of their lives. After Southern California's Lake Crowley is split at its foundation by an earthquake, the water becomes an elixir -- and a truth serum. As desperate people migrate to its shores to drink from its waters, pandemonium besets Los Angeles and a group of public servants, including the California governor and American president, will be forced to intercede between human nature and Mother Nature.

Shamra Divided: Book Two of the Sharma Chronicles, by Barry Hoffman (Edge Books) In Book One of the series, Curse of the Shamra, author Barry Hoffman introduced Dara, a young Shamra girl who defies the oppressive rules of her society and leads a ragtag resistance in the hopes of defeating their conquerors. Although she is criticized for being outspoken, "different", and wild, she never gives in to the pressure to conform. Shamra Divided continues Dara's adventures, as she sets off to faraway lands to learn more about her heritage, why she was the one who was meant to lead her people to freedom, and what future challenges are in store for her that she must mentally, emotionally, and spiritually prepare for.

The Prophet of the Pentacle, by Marilyn Privratsky (Outskirts Press) In this first work of her epic fantasy trilogy, The Chronicles of Farro, Rafar the Elder, the Osarian Knight's Prophet of War, must find away to stop Lord Jarden, the ancient evil one who has suddenly and accidentally been unleashed back into the world and is now bent on destroying it. A great battle had been fought in ancient times between the ruthless Lord Jarden and the powerful sphinx Berecynthia. She defeated this evil one, but was mortally wounded before vanquishing him altogether. Five ages pass before a royal advisor investigating the mysterious and lonely Ice Isle inadvertently sets free the ancient evil one and becomes his host. Only the sacred alliance of prophets called the Osarian Knights can now save the mystical realm of Andora from turning into a desolate wasteland of burnt ash, its innocent population annihilated by Lord Jarden's perverse genocide.

Mara's Flowery Arrows, by Siam's Unnamed (CreateSpace) Does a mysterious manuscript, discovered by chance in the library of a Burmese monastery, contain the oldest thriller story of Southeast Asian literature? In the far east of the Indochina peninsula during the Ninth Century A.D., Prince Asaka fights against the intrigues of the Khmer Court. A prince of the Court, son of the King, is found assassinated: why would somebody want to accuse a poor slave unjustly of such an important crime? Our hero is also involved in the crime (as owner of the slave, as well as more directly). He manages to extract himself and to identify the true culprit, thanks to the help of two friends: one, a wise old Hindu, reminds us of the figure of the western investigator who is part Sherlock Holmes and part Perry Mason.

Fortuna by Michael Stevens (Oceanview Publishing) Jason Lind, a brilliant but bored Stanford computer science major is longing for escape from his mundane existence. Jason signs up to play Fortuna, an online role-playing game set in Renaissance Florence. From the first, fateful mouse click, Jason tumbles into the vibrant, lush, and anonymous world of Fortuna. Swept up in this highly complex, highly addictive game of fame, fortune, and power, Jason quickly transitions from casual gamer to compulsive player. Soon tangled up in a steamy, virtual love triangle, Jason becomes obsessed with breaking Fortuna’s code of anonymity. But Fortuna is anything but fun and games, and when a sizeable debt incurred in the game spills over into reality, Jason is forced to leverage the legacy of his father, a high-tech legend killed in a car accident years before, to pay off the debt. What starts as a great escape may only leave Jason trapped, as the game that transported him deep into the past exposes a shocking present-day reality. In the world of Fortuna, it’s not how you play the game -- it’s if you survive.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The risks of parenting while plugged in, and the importannce of reading

hoto by Michelle Litvin,(p
the New York Times)

The lives of parents are not one-dimensional: often the needs of children and work and home often intersect, and when they do it can be difficult to find the proper balance. Here, written by Julie Scelfo, are excerpts from a recent New York Times article that explores the risks parents face in this plugged-in world. One of the important factors, experts find, is that reading to a child is more engaging, more involved, and shows more individual affection than other forms of parent-child interaction. You can find copies of any books mentioned here or anywhere on BookBag by using the WorldCatalog and Amazon search boxes.

WHILE waiting for an elevator at the Fair Oaks Mall near her home in Virginia recently, Janice Im, who works in early-childhood development, witnessed a troubling incident between a young boy and his mother.

The boy, who Ms. Im estimates was about 2 1/2 years old, made repeated attempts to talk to his mother, but she wouldn’t look up from her BlackBerry. “He’s like: ‘Mama? Mama? Mama?’ ” Ms. Im recalled. “And then he starts tapping her leg. And she goes: ‘Just wait a second. Just wait a second.’ ”

Finally, he was so frustrated, Ms. Im said, that “he goes, ‘Ahhh!’ and tries to bite her leg.”

Much of the concern about cellphones and instant messaging and Twitter has been focused on how children who incessantly use the technology are affected by it. But parents’ use of such technology — and its effect on their offspring — is now becoming an equal source of concern to some child-development researchers.

Sherry Turkle, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Initiative on Technology and Self, has been studying how parental use of technology affects children and young adults. After five years and 300 interviews, she has found that feelings of hurt, jealousy and competition are widespread. Her findings will be published in “Alone Together” early next year by Basic Books.

In her studies, Dr. Turkle said, “Over and over, kids raised the same three examples of feeling hurt and not wanting to show it when their mom or dad would be on their devices instead of paying attention to them: at meals, during pickup after either school or an extracurricular activity, and during sports events.”

... “There’s something that’s so engrossing about the kind of interactions people do with screens that they wall out the world,” she said. “I’ve talked to children who try to get their parents to stop texting while driving and they get resistance, ‘Oh, just one, just one more quick one, honey.’ It’s like ‘one more drink.’ ”

Laura Scott Wade, the director of ethics for a national medical organization in Chicago, said that six months ago her son, Lincoln, then 3 1/2, got so tired of her promises to get off the computer in “just one more minute” that he resorted to the kind of tactic parents typically use.

“He makes me set the timer on the microwave,” Ms. Wade said. “And when it dings he’ll say, ‘Come on,’ and he’ll say, ‘Don’t bring your phone.’ ”

... “It sort of comes back to quality time, and distracted time is not high-quality time, whether parents are checking the newspaper or their BlackBerry,” said Frederick J. Zimmerman, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Public Health who has studied how television can distract parents. He also noted that smartphones and laptops may enable some parents to spend more time at home, which may, in turn, result in more, rather than less, quality time overall.

There is little research on how parents’ constant use of such technology affects children, but experts say there is no question that engaged parenting — talking and explaining things to children, and responding to their questions — remains the bedrock of early childhood learning.

Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley’s landmark 1995 book, “Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children,” shows that parents who supply a language-rich environment for their children help them develop a wide vocabulary, and that helps them learn to read.

The book connects language use at home with socioeconomic status. According to its findings, children in higher socioeconomic homes hear an average of 2,153 words an hour, whereas those in working-class households hear only about 1,251; children in the study whose parents were on welfare heard an average of 616 words an hour....

Part of the reason the children in affluent homes she studied developed larger vocabularies by the time they were 3 is that “parents are holding kids, the kids are on their lap while the parent is reading a book,” Dr. Hart said. “It is important for parents to know when they’re talking to kids, they’re transferring affection as well as words. When you talk to people, there’s always an implicit message, ‘I like you,’ or ‘I don’t like you.’ ”

Meredith Sinclair, a mother and blogger in Wilmette, Ill., said she had no idea how what she calls her “addiction to e-mail and social media Web sites” was bothering her children until she established an e-mail and Internet ban between 4 and 8 p.m., and her children responded with glee. “When I told them, my 12-year-old, Maxwell, was like, ‘Yes!’ ” Ms. Sinclair said.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

New Father's Day books for kids to share

Father's Day is rapidly approaching, and here are some timely tips and book suggestions for Dads and their kids from the BookDads website, as well as reading helps from the 60 Second Parent site on Twitter.

There's also good news for readers in Spanish, too: the launch of a Spanish-resource language site, Wikilengua. Look for any books you see reviewed on BookBag using the Amazon / World Catalog search boxes, and don't forget to visit the helpful community of folks over at BookDads!

Geek Dad: Awesomely Geeky Projects and Activities for Dads and Kids to Share, by Ken Denmead(Gotham Books) A fully illustrated, idea packed resource of fun, games and adventures geared toward the geek in us all. Ken Denmead is an engineer turned geeky dad who has found an inner calling through his many projects, crafts, and fun times with his kids. And what Geeky Dad isn’t waiting for Iron Man? We can certainly come up with a fun project that ties to the opening and gets readers excited for the release! Geek Dad started as a blog on Wired.com and now, Ken and his many followers spend their days making kites with lights to fly at night, video cameras that fly with the help of balloons, lamps made out of legos, and cyborg jack-o-lanterns for the holidays ... and lots more.

Cool Sports Dad, by David Fischer (Skyhorse Publishing) Fathers may not know how to swish foul shots or throw the perfect spiral, but NBA star Grant Hill and NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers do! With Cool Sports Dad, all Dads will have the sports know-how to really impress their kids. Sports greats like Derick Rose of the Chicago Bulls and New York Rangers Captain Chris Drury help hads stay on top of every detail behind every sport! Out in time for Father’s Day, Cool Sports Dad is packed with mini essays with step-by-step instruction from the world’s most knowledgeable sports experts. The contributors range from instantly recognizable All-Star names like Jerome Bettis and David Wright, to the next generation of extreme athletes like BMX biker and 2005 X Games silver medalist Scotty Cranmer and Bass-masters fishing champion Kevin Van Dam. All of these stars have been chosen for inclusion because they are at the very top of their profession, be it basketball, baseball, football, BMX racing or even fishing.

And if you're a brand new Dad (or soon will be) here's another idea from Chris at the BookDads website: I found the 60 Second Parent website on Twitter sometime late last year. I initially was going to the site to read up on infant development, but recently I have found them to have great resources for ideas of activities to do with your infant/toddler. I also wanted to share some of the reading resources I found on their site:

* 7 Ways to Develop Good Reading Habits

* Why Read to Your Baby

* Why Read to Your Toddler

* Why Read to Your Kindergartner

* Books Your 2 Year Old Will Love

Wikilengua, a new resource for Spanish readers

From the website of Spanish Book Distributors:

The web has a new resource for Spanish-language readers, Wikilengua.org. It's the collaborative platform for the Spanish language (much like Wikipedia) and aims to help the world's more than 400 million Spanish-speakers, taking the information from dictionaries, reference works, books and readers' original input.

What is great about Wikilengua.org is that users can present words, idioms and grammatical rules from all over the world, not just those that appear on RAE (the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language). Since it began last August, the site already has over 5,000 subscribed readers and recently added 1,500 more. Together they could collaborate and form a great tool for everyone looking for answers about Spanish. While still in its infancy, it could prove to be a formidable resource to understand the different idioms used all over the world, and a great benefit for libraries as well.

Spanish from Spain and the RAE is understood and used by all Spanish-speakers. Because most of the books used in classrooms around the world to teach Spanish during the last two generations have been published in Spain, or by Spanish publishers, most Spanish-speakers have learned what could be called Castillian Spanish. The same is true for most of the books published as Spain, and it’s publishers, produce the great majority of titles.

There are, nevertheless, many idioms, slang and expressions, that vary in different countries and even communities within each country. These are not always represented in RAE or other sources. They bring richness to the language and can now be represented within this community.

Parents will find the site a useful resource for Spanish language and topics. Wikilengua should be bookmarked at every library that serves Spanish-language readers so that all those readers could continue enriching the common language. Visit this website and start collaborating by reading, commenting, adding your own expressions and sharing your knowledge. Send any comments or suggestions to blog@sbdbooks.com

Saturday, June 5, 2010

How to keep kids reading and avoid "summer slide"

It's worth noting as the summer gets underway that kids can lose a lot of schoolroom smarts during the next few months. Here in a recent May 24 post on Reading Rockets, children's literature expert Maria Salvadore brings you into her world as she explores the best ways to use kids' books both inside — and outside — of the classroom.

Summer slide

When I first heard the term "summer slide" I thought of equipment on a playground. But as I'm sure you're aware, there's another meaning entirely. This slide refers to summer learning loss.

There's lots of research about it. Children tend to lose reading (and math) skills over the summer when they're not used.

There are many activities that enhance reading and will slow or stop that slide — talking, singing, reading aloud, keeping a journal or photo album of summer activities, and lots more.

One thing that our family still does is cook together. And lots of cooking can start with a story book that involves food and more.

Cook-a-doodle-doo (Sandpiper) by Janet Stevens and her sister is a very funny take-off on the traditional story of the industrious Little Red Hen. Just like his grandmother, the rooster asks for but actually gets help. Together the friends find a recipe for and make delicious strawberry shortcake. (I've tried the recipe and it is quite good!) Along the way, they also learn a few things about following the special language of cooking and recipes.

Another enjoyable story book that includes a tasty cooking activity is Honey Cookies (Francis Lincoln) by Meredith Hooper. A grandmother almost poetically describes the ingredients she and her grandchild need to make this sweet treat. (She's actually telling Ben where each originates.) A recipe for the cookies is included in this book, too (though if you try this one, add a little more butter than called for; makes them moister.)

A classic summer activity is planting a garden — even better when you're Growing Vegetable Soup (Voyager). Vegetables, seeds, and garden tools are all presented in Lois Ehlert's colorful illustrations that present a handsome garden. A recipe for vegetable soup is also included. (I've never tried this one, but it looks pretty standard.)

Do you and the children in your life have a book and favorite activity that can stop the summer slide? If so, take a minute to share it with us at Reading Rockets!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Hot summer fiction for teens

Summer's hot days are perfect weather for elaborate stories about thrills, mystery, and fantasy (and a witch or two). Recently published, these books perfectly fit the lazy, hot days of June. Look for them on the World Catalog / Amazon search boxes here on BookBag and get ready for exciting adventures that will keep you turning the pages!

Split, by Swati Avasthi (Alfred A. Knopf) Realistic Fiction. Jace Witherspoon is 16 when he shows up on his older brother Christian's doorstep badly beaten and with nowhere else to go. Five years earlier, Christian escaped their abusive father, leaving Jace and their mother to manage the best they could. Christian has a new life, but can Jace--who fears for his mother's life and still loves his father despite everything--put the past behind him and move on? With complex characters and painfully honest dialogue, this raw, emotionally intense novel shows how abuse affects each member of a family.

Green Witch, by Alice Hoffman (Scholastic Press) Fiction. A year ago, the city near Green's village was destroyed--while her parents and sister were there selling produce from the family's garden. The previous novel Green Angel tells how Green picked up the pieces and moved on with her life, thanks in part to fellow survivor Diamond, whom she came to love. But now, in Green Witch, she is alone again; Diamond has gone missing, and Green must venture out from her lush garden to ask for help from four solitary women who are rumored to be witches. This poetically written story of loss and longing is heartrending and memorable.

Ostrich Boys, by Keith Gray (Random House) Fiction. British teens Kenny, Sim, and Blake are sure that their best friend, Ross--who was hit by a car while riding his bike--would have loathed every second of his "farce of a funeral." So, to honor Ross's memory, they've decided to steal his ashes and take them to Ross, Scotland for a proper send-off. But their journey is plagued by trouble from the start, from lost bus tickets to high-speed police chases and more, and the secrets that they spill along the way bring up questions about Ross's death. Both moving and funny, Ostrich Boys combines a wild road-trip adventure with a searching story of guilt, grief, and friendship.

A Spy in the House, by Rushang Li (Candlewick Press) Historical Mystery. Mary Quinn is 17 years old, and she's come a long way from the gallows where she was sentenced to hang for thievery when she was 12. Rescued and taken to Miss Scrimshaw's Academy for Girls, Mary was given a second chance at life...and now she's been offered a place in the secret, all-female detective agency for which the school is a front. Mary's first assignment requires her to pose as the companion of a wealthy merchant's daughter, and before long, she realizes that she isn't the only one sniffing around for clues to the merchant's suspected criminal activities. Richly woven with historical details that bring Victorian London to life, this first volume in a planned trilogy is a satisfying and thrilling mystery.

The Sky is Everywhere, by Jandy Nelson (Dial Books) Fiction. Lennie, 17, was perfectly content living in her vibrant older sister Bailey's shadow, but now Bailey is dead. Devastated by her loss, Lennie struggles to carry on and feels guilty for the smallest moments of happiness--particularly the ones that she shares with Toby, Bailey's boyfriend. When a new boy in town, gifted musician Joe Fontaine, shows an interest in Lennie, she thinks that he might be "the one"...but can she let herself have him? Brimming with emotion and complex relationships, this honest and romantic story is one that fans of tearjerkers won't want to miss.

I Am Not a Serial Killer, by Dan Wells (Tor) Thriller. Fifteen-year-old John Wayne Cleaver does everything he can not to live up to his potential; he's a sociopath who's trying his best to keep his nature in check. John assists his mother, a mortician, with the preparation of corpses--and lives by a strict set of self-imposed rules that keep him from adding to their number. But then a series of bizarre murders leads John to believe that a serial killer is preying on the people of his small town, and he aims to track the culprit down. While John Wayne Cleaver may sound a lot like a certain blood-spatter analyst (from either Jeff Lindsay's Dexter books or the Showtime TV series), this tense, gruesome novel more than holds its own.