Sunday, January 30, 2005

Jen's Favorite Books

As I mentioned in another post (here), "Pride and Prejudice" is one of my all time favorite novels. Another one from childhood, is "Sonny Elephant" (I'm lucky to own my copy, as it's been out of print for a long time). I have read, and LOVED so many books ... I'll feature a few favorites below then list more that I recall with a positive memory :) ... as you will probably see, I liked books in a SERIES ... it is so nice to have a continuing story, and not have to wonder about what you are going to read next!

Almost everyone has heard of "Anne of Green Gables" ... it was made into a great television movie (whereas the first movie actually stays quite true to book #1, the followup sequel takes a few more liberties, taking the next three books and mashing them into the one movie, turning three book characters into one, etc. ... but I did still really enjoy the movie!) Not everyone is aware that this wonderful series keeps going, eight books total. While I read the first several "Anne" books while I was a teenager, I didn't discover the final two until after I was married. I remember Grayson coming home one day to find me SOBBING ... (yes a spoiler, it has a sad part) ... one of the few books to actually hit me that hard.

Dragonsong, Dragonsinger, Dragondrums ... those were the first books I read in the "Dragonridgers of Pern" collection (which includes over a dozen books). Sometimes I wonder where writers get such an imagination to create completely different worlds like this! This "Harper Hall Trilogy" is aimed at younger (maybe middle-school) readers, then another trilogy (Dragonflight, Dragonquest, The White Dragon) is a little more advanced (I believe the library has them in the adult rather than the youth section). The second trilogy actually starts years before the one pictured above, but then ends afterward, with several crossovers between the two books. Several situations are portrayed in both trilogies, but from different perspectives in the various books. After the two trilogies there are several follow up books (some that go back and revisit the past, and others that take up the story and go forward). I LOVED these books. The author has other books, but none really captured me until I found the "Freedom's Landing" trilogy a few years back, and it was another set I really enjoyed.

Ok ... so far you can see I like romance and fantasy ... now how to describe Herriot's "All Creatures Great and Small" series? You don't get more down to earth than these books. Set in Yorkshire England in the 1930s, this is the first person narrative of a country veterinarian. It is considered fiction, although it is based on true life experiences of the author. I know ... it doesn't really sound like an appealing book, but it IS ... it's funny, it's tender, it's informative ... it's just wonderful! Four followup books in the series continue the stories.

As I started reflecting back on my reading throughout the years, SO many wonderful stories come to mind. This list is mainly for me I guess ... I was thinking I should write them down so I don't forget, but these books have already stood the test of time, as it's been over 25 years since I originally read them. Through the years, most of these have been collected and added to my personal library. I'd love to know if others have fond memories of any of these, and if they appeal at all to kids today ...

Elementary Age Favorites:
  • The Chronicals of Narnia by C.S. Lewis: Classic seven book series. I read them as a teenager several times. Not long ago I read them all again, a book a day for a week. Some powerful imagery.
  • The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare: I remember reading this book in elementary school, so 5th or 6th grade. I distinctly recall the entire class watching a program on PBS, where this book was being told while and artist drew illustrations. This award winning book was probably my first "historical romance" ... it IS a romance!
  • The Great Brain series by J.D. Fitzgerald. Fiction, based on the author's childhood in Utah in the late 1800s. While my brothers and sister's favorite was "The Great Brain at the Academy" ... mine was "Me and My Little Brain". I loved these stories.
  • The Forgotten Door by Alexander Key. Never quite as well known as his "Witch Mountain" stories, which were made into movies I loved (but I loved the books too). Similar though, as in the main character is from somewhere else ... another planet? Another time? Read it and find out :)
  • Baby Island by Carol Ryrie Brink: I was introduced to this book as it was read aloud to the class in 3rd grade. In this story, two young sisters end up shipwrecked on an island with four babies to tend to. I think it appealed to me as a young girl, as I loved babies, just like the girls in the book and figured I would have done just as well in such a situation :) The same author also wrote Caddie Woodlawn, which is another great story, although I don't think I reread it as much as I did "Baby Island" ... which I'm glad to see is still in print.
  • No Flying in the House by Betty Brock: Another book from 3rd grade. The same author wrote "The Shades" which is another favorite. While the latter cannot be found (I'm lucky enough to own a copy), the former, "No Flying in the House" is available today. I loved the story and thought Disney should have made it into a movie ... although I did reread it as an adult and ... it wasn't quite as good as I remembered it.
  • E.B White Books: Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little were turned into movies, but I think my favorite of White's books was "Trumpet of the Swan". Maybe because there is no movie version to distract me from the book version, it lives in my imagination.
  • Beverly Cleary Books: I loved Henry Huggins (more than Ramona), Ribsy, Socks and Ralph Mouse.
  • Carolyn Haywood Books: Just a step or two easier reading than Beverly Cleary, another set of books about a boy (Little Eddie) and a girl and her sister (Betsy and Star) and miscellaneous other books, "The Mixed-Up Twins" standing out in my memory.
  • Mrs. Piggle Wiggle Books by Betty McDonald: I adored these, and they are books a parent would like a child to read, as they all had "lessons" to be learned, taught by the magical Mrs. Piggle Wiggle ... what to do if a child won't clean their room, or doesn't want to go to bed. Imaginative solutions to common childhood issues.
  • More: Where the Red Fern Grows and Summer of Monkeys by Wilson Rawls. The Wishing Tree and other "witch" books by Ruth Chew. All of a Kind Family series by Sydney Taylor. Call it Courage by Armstrong Perry. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell. The "Indian in the Cupboard" books by Lynne Reid Banks.
Middle School Favorites:
  • Interstellar Pig and Singularity by William Sleator: Accidentally involving earth in an intergalactic game and dealing with time speeding up are the themes of these two books.
  • Marrow of the World by Ruth Nichols: Ok, truthfully, I can't totally remember the story of this book, but I do remember it making an impact on me enough that I did search it out and buy it (which is hard to do, as it is out of print) ... I just pulled it out to reread.
  • The Girl Who Owned a City by O.T. Nelson: It's a bit of a horrific plot line ... a virus wipes out anyone over the age of twelve, leaving gangs of children to fend for themselves.
  • A Gift of Magic and other books by Lois Duncan: Half of these books deal with something supernatural, while the others are more "realistic" thrillers. I loved reading these throughout my middle school years.
  • I Think This is Where We Came In and other books by Phyllis Anderson Wood: There were several books by this author that touched my teen-aged self, as I look through the titles, I can't remember the stories for sure, but the titles I recall reading are: Song of the Shaggy Canary, Win Me and You Lose and I've Missed a Sunset or Three.
  • One Child by Torey Hayden: A true story about a teacher and an abused little girl.
  • The Family Nobody Wanted by Helen Doss: A true story about a young couple unable to have children who turn to adoption.
High School and On ...
  • Required Reading: I remember being SO confused by "The Brothers Karamazov"(everyone seemed to have three different names) but actually liking the book."Lord of the Flies" really disturbed me. "Heart of Darkness" ... that was a true challenge. I remember a positive experience with "Sound and the Fury" ... I can't remember if "Flowers for Algernon" was required at one point, or if I read it on my own ... it's a favorite! Also 1984 and Brave New World ...
  • Historical Fiction by Irving Stone: Based on fact, these fictionalized stories from the lives of many famous people (John Adams, Michaelangelo, Freud, etc.) were both interesting and informative.
  • A Woman of Independent Means by Elizabeth Hailey: I don't recall the story specifically, but the PRESENTATION of this book was so different that it stayed with me. It's presented as outgoing letters. Such an interesting concept. Later in life, I actually would collect all my correspondence, keeping it on file because of this book. Another book with an interesting presentation is "Up the Down Staircase" which has handwritten notes, school assignments, etc. as much of the book.

Recent Reading: Thinking on new novels that have come out in the past decade or so ... I've read the entire Work and the Glory Series, all the Harry Potter books, the Twilight series, The Hunger Games series .... I'm reviewing ones the kids have also read in the Chapter Books link ...

And in 2012 two HUGE thing happened ...

  • I discovered DIGITAL (Kindle Fire and Kindle apps on the ipod mainly, but I've tried the NookApp, Overdrive, iBooks and a couple other digital offerings) which has totally gotten me back into reading. I mean READING reading, like several books a month. One problem I had, was just having material on hand. No longer a problem. There are so many free offerings, and borrowing from the library no longer requires a trip in. Now I have too many books I want to read just waiting for me. And it's so convenient now, instead of lugging a book around, just in case I might get a minute, I whip out my iPhone, which I have with me anyway. And it's so much lighter than a heavy, hardbound book (even paperbacks can be cumbersome), and I don't need a lamp or book light when it's dark. I just have to make sure I keep my digital devices charged.
  • I discovered GOODREADS ... a social site for keeping track of what you've read, what you want to read, what you thought, what your friends are reading and what they have liked. It's been so great to keep track of everything. You can create different shelves (so I know if I own the book in my Kindle cloud, or if it's one I can borrow from the library). I love seeing everyone's ratings, and writing down what I thought of each book. You can see if your friends are reading and liking the same books. So while I may not be adding to this post, I'm very active on my GoodReads account and would love to see you there (see my profile HERE). 

Saturday, January 1, 2005

Chapter Books

 While I was a voracious reader during my childhood, this does not appear to be something I've passed down to my boys. I have FIVE boys ... I realize that they aren't going to enjoy many of the books dear to my heart (Anne of Green Gables, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Baby Island, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, etc.) and I accept that. In addition to not liking "girl" books, my second son Callahan (who is my best reader) also doesn't like "old" books (which would be anything that was out when I was his age). So I've really tried to pay attention to recommendations of new and exciting books that would appeal to boys. I try to read them myself, so I know what the boys are reading, and so I can discuss the books with them ... here are some that I, and a boy or two, has read and enjoyed ...

Percy Jackson and the Olympians
This is a well known (and reviewed) series. Callahan (and I) have read all five books in the Percy Jackson series. Callahan went on to read (and LOVE) "The Lost Hero" (the first book of the "Heroes of Olympus series, which takes up after PJ finishes up) but I am waiting until that series is complete, so I don't have to wait in-between books. It took me a little while to warm up to Percy Jackson, but after my initial hesitation I did like the entire series. I've always enjoyed Greek mythology, and these books are FULL of it ... every story you've ever heard of (plus plenty you haven't) will make an appearance at some point. Even Landon made it through FOUR of the books ... I'm pushing the fifth and final book, I'll update when/if he gets it read!

This series hit hard in Utah a few years ago, perhaps in part to the author being local and LDS. He even came to our elementary school for a book signing. Callahan and I have read all five books in the series (Landon and Grandma have read the first couple ... they need to finish, it gets pretty exciting and there were a couple twists that caught me by surprise!). This is full fledged fantasy with all sorts of exotic creatures and lots of action.

Hatchet (and other Brian books)
This is a small book and an easy read, a break from the "fantasy" genre. Reminiscent in a way of other classics "Island of the Blue Dolphins" and "Call it Courage" (two other books I really enjoyed), featuring a teen on their own in the wild, trying to survive (although this is a more modern story than the other two I mentioned). It has several sequels as well, I've read the two immediately following (The River and Brian's Winter), and would recommend reading "Brian's Winter" first (even though it was written after "The River"). I haven't read "Brian's Return" and "Brian's Hunt" yet, but will update here when I do. Landon, Callahan and Keaton have read the first book.

The Missing
Callahan was the one to introduced this book to me, after hearing good things about it from friends at school. We thought it was a trilogy (Found, Sent, Sabotaged) ... but as the third book ends in a cliffhanger ... there are more coming. This series is science fiction, dealing with time travel, and the kids will learn a little bit from the historical settings. The author has another series (Shadow Children) that looks interesting, and a few other stand alone books. ** Update 11/2011 ... The fourth book "Taken" came out, I just couldn't quite get into it and neither could Callahan.

The Ranger's Apprentice
I stumbled upon this series while looking for books for the boys. This has a lot of good reviews and I add mine to it (the boys haven't read it yet, Callahan says the cover looks scary). Set in a medieval time, with kings and knights, to me, it had a touch of a "Lord of the Rings" feel, with an evil power gathering an army of creatures. There are several books in this series. The first one wraps up nicely, but the second book leaves you hanging. I haven't gone on yet, but I've heard you need to read the third and fourth book together. I'll update when I do (or when the boys give this series a try). I recommended this to my nephew (who enjoys reading) and he zipped right through the entire series!

The Underland Chronicals
The "Hunger Games" series is quite well known (I've read it, Callahan is reading it now). The same author wrote a series of five books called "The Underland Chronicals" ... my little niece is the one who recommended these. I enjoyed them, Callahan read the first one (he liked Percy and Fablehaven better ... I would see similar themes with "prophecies" and quests). This takes place in an underground world ... rats, cockroaches, spiders are almost as human as the humans that live there (the underlanders). A boy and his little sister accidentally slip into this world ...

Landon picked this up at the school library ... well, he actually picked up book #2, The Vampire's Assistant (the first two books have been combined and made into a movie, carrying the name of the second book). While of course my boys mock all things "Twilight" this vampire series is much more aimed at boys. I have always liked vampire stories, and as I want to know what the boys are reading, I went ahead and picked this up (I started with book #1 rather than book #2, go figure), I read them both before Landon got even halfway through (and didn't finish). While I don't know that I loved this, it was quick and easy reading (I finished in a little over a day) and I think it would keep the interest of a young reader (if their name isn't Landon).

I picked this up for Landon several years ago (the cover pictured here looks like an updated publication!). He made it through the first book and actually seemed to enjoy it. I read it too and liked it, although I did have to go back and reread a bit as I had gotten a little confused as to what was happening. Landon went on to read the second and third books (or at least he said he did, I haven't continued on to quiz him and make sure he'd actually been reading). Callahan said they read this at school and it didn't quite capture his interest, but I think he does better reading at his own pace at home.

This trilogy is getting a lot of buzz with a movie coming out in the near future. I read all three books and so did Callahan. I didn't buy them, but just got them from the library (I think sometimes that says something, if you liked it enough to want to keep it in your collection, or if you're content with just borrowing it and giving it back). I didn't love these books. I thought the first one was pretty good and moved onto the second. By the third book, I think I was just a little down and discouraged by it all and was ready for it to end. They say you can get lost in a book, but this was certainly not a place I would want to be. Hunger Games wasn't exactly pleasant either, and yet it didn't drag me down as much as these ones did. Callahan said he liked them, I didn't get much feedback other than that. They are very dark and violent, I wonder how the movie will be ...

There is also some buzz about "Ender's Game" being made into a movie. I had to buy a copy, because there were so many holds on it at the library. My brother highly recommended this (and the following books in the series which I have yet to read) and I did like it. It actually reminded me a little of MazeRunner (children being "tested" in difficult situations to try and save the world type of thing).  Callahan needs to read a science fiction genre, so I've given it to him for his next  book.

"Where is Harry Potter?" you might ask ... my boys have some strange prejudice against Harry Potter and they won't even give the books a chance. I read the entire series and really liked it. Loved the fourth book (moments had me gasping and almost in tears) but I didn't care for the 5th book, too dark and whiney.

My third son isn't interested in "scary" books, and let me tell you, it doesn't take much for a book to be classified as scary for him. He doesn't seem to have the same distaste for "old" books as #2 does, so I've started him on "The Great Brain" series. I LOVED these books when I was younger. My siblings seemed to enjoy "The Great Brain and the Academy" the most, but "Me and My Little Brain" was my favorite! So far so good, Keaton is on the second book now. 

Other "old" books I'll think about for him are ... Summer of the Monkeys, Indian in the Cupboard series, The Trumpet of the Swan, and The Forgotten Door ...

Other Books on the Radar:
  • Alex Rider: I have the first book (saw the movie) ... seems like it would appeal to boys.
  • 39 Clues: Callahan read the first book, but is wary of the series being written by different authors.
  • 13th Reality: The cousins have said they enjoyed this series.
  • Peter and the Starcatchers: A pre-Peter Pan series with good reviews.
  • Dangerous Days of Daniel X: Mixed reviews ...
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events: Callahan said they read several of these in school.
  • Leven Thumps: Seems to have good reviews.
  • Deltora: I picked up some "Dragons of Deltora" books, but it appears there are earlier books. I didn't feel I could start without going back to the original books (Deltora Quest)
  • Pendragon Series: Has good reviews
  • Eragon (The Inheritance Series): Landon wanted this years ago when it first came out, but soon gave up on it. I tried it, but it had so many similarities to Anne McCaffery (who I LOVED) that I was a bit prejudiced against it.

Chapter Books for Younger Readers:
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: My boys LOVE these and are anxious for the next installment to come out. I have NOT read them, I like a little more story ...
  • Captain Underpants: Keaton really enjoyed this series ... we'll see if my younger boys follow suit.
  • The Magic Treehouse: We read a few of these, I wish the boys would have had more of an interest. As a parent, I thought they were good. 
  • Wayside School: Quick, easy chapters.
  • Dragon Slayers Academy: Callahan enjoyed several books from this series when he was younger.
  • Henry Huggins and other books by Beverly Cleary
  • Little Eddie and other books by Carolyn Haywood (not as well know as Beverly Cleary, but similar, about a boy and his dog, and a "girl" set of books too (Betsy here, like Cleary's Ramona). I LOVED these, and there are a whole bunch of them! "The Mixed-Up Twins" was a stand-alone book I remember really enjoying.
  • Others: With boys, the Junie B Jones don't really appeal (and I actually didn't care for them much), we've tried some Ready Freddy books, Jake Drake Stories and Jigsaw Jones  and A-Z Mysteries, I have some Hank Zipzer we have yet to read. We tried Boxcar Children, but they didn't seem to take.

As I've discovered PINTEREST ... and I've pinned a lot of others reading lists and other helpful reading tips and websites. If you want to check out my board, click HERE

Recent Reading:

  • Landon: Hatchet, Cirque de Freak, Food Rules, The Omnivore's Dilemma, Hiroshima, FableHaven (1-3), Percy Jackson (1-4), Artemis Fowl (1-3)
  • Callahan:   Maze Runner Trilogy, Throne of Fire, Son of Neptune, Diary of a Wimpy Kid Cabin Fever, Beyonders, Catching Fire, The Hunger Games, The Lost Hero, Percy Jackson (1-5), Found/Sent/Sabotaged, Gregor the Overlander, Fablehaven (1-5), Hatchet, 39 Clues, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Diary of a Wimpy Kid (1-5), Dragon Slayers Academy .... 
  • Keaton: The Great Brain, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Captain Underpants

Picture Books

As we read books from the library (or our own collection),

I thought it would be fun to keep track of some of the ones we enjoyed here ...

Books We've Read Lately ...

Very quick and easy read (meaning there aren't many words at ALL!) but the little boys really thought this was fun and "read" the book over and over. Emphasis on sharing and manners :)  *added 02/2012

If this list were solely up to me, this book wouldn't have made it onto the blog. I guess I just like the rhyming books with a storyline. This one was actually difficult to read out loud, there was the story text, then words as parts of the illustrations. I guess it was more the idea of the story and pictures, but the kids liked it. After Colton and I were done with storytime, I noticed he was going over the book again himself, then sharing it with Keaton. It caught Cooper's attention, and he read it to himself. Colton shared it again with a friend over for a playdate ... so while I didn't love it, I think the kids enjoyed it ...

The "story" here is not new, although I don't know that my boys had heard it before. As the title indicates, this "old lady" sticks to swallowing bugs. Instead of the traditional illustrations drawn by hand, these appear to be pieced together from felt or craft foam (reminiscent of something I might have created during my scrapbooking days). Reading specialists indicate that repetitive text is a good learning tool for young children ... this book certainly had plenty of that! Colton was joining in as the book went on. It's not often that a book catches me by surprise, but there was a twist at the end that had me laughing *Ü*

Is it a duck? Is it a a rabbit ... cute little story!

Family Favorites
This was one of Keaton's favorite books when he was little ... and he still likes it! A cute story with fun rhymes. There are a couple other "Bear" books, but this one is the first, and the best!

We love Boynton Books! The catchy rhymes, the cute illustrations and just fun little "stories" ... there are MANY more but these three are our family favorites! ... I happened to showing this post to Landon and he brought up "Dinosaur's Binket" as another favorite ... how could I have forgotten that one???
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