Children's Book Review and Recommendations by a Mother of Two Book-loving Kids
Sample Book Reviews and Recommendations
Linda Williams, Megan Lloyd (Paperback)
Genre: Fiction - Children's Picture Books; Book Themes: Emotions and Feelings, Halloween
"The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything" by Linda Williams is a great Halloween story although it doesn't have the word Halloween anywhere in the texts. A brave old lady walks home through a dark forest. She comes across two big shoes, a pair of pants, a shirt, two gloves and a hat. Each time, the little old lady tells them she is not afraid of anything. Then after a scary orange pumpkin head appears, the old lady runs all way home. Once at home, she overcomes her fear and finds a happy solution. The items that have tried to scare her become a scarecrow in the little old lady's garden. The picture book makes good use of attention-grabbing sound words, such as "clomp clomp", "shake, shake" and "clap, clap". Megan Lloyd's lively and detailed illustrations show the old lady's emotions and complement the story well. It is a good picture book for read aloud to children in preschool, kindergarten and first grade.
Norton Juster, Jules Feiffer (Paperback)
Genres: Fiction - Fantasy Books, Humorous Stories
"The Phantom Tollbooth", full of puns, humor and colorful characters, is an original and hilarious classic children's chapter book. Kids in third grade through seventh grade will get a good laugh from the ingenious plays on words in this humorous story. Ten-year-old Milo finds a Phantom Tollbooth in his room. After driving through the tollbooth gate, Milo embarks upon a fantastic journey that takes him to Dictionopolis, the land of words; Digitopolis, the land of numbers; and many other unusual places. Along with watchdog Tock and the Humbug, Milo goes on a quest to bring back the Princess of Sweet Rhyme and the Princess of Pure Reason to the Kingdom of Wisdom from the Castle in the Air. "The Phantom Tollbooth", written by Norton Juster and illustrated by Jules Feiffer, is one of the best fantasy books for children.
Erica Silverman, S.D. Schindler (Paperback)
Genre: Fiction - Children's Picture Books; Book Themes: Witches, Halloween, Pumpkin
"Big Pumpkin" by Erica Silverman is a funny Halloween story that will delight children in preschool, kindergarten and first grade. A witch wants to make pumpkin pie, so she plants a pumpkin seed. The pumpkin grows so big that the witch cannot yank it from the vine. Some traditional Halloween characters come to help, but neither the ghost, nor the vampire, nor the mummy can make it budge. Finally a bat comes up with a good idea. They line up and pull together. Off comes the big pumpkin. The colorful illustrations by S.D. Schindler is a little spooky but not scary. With predictable rhyming texts, the picture book is good for reading aloud. Kids can also see the value of cooperation and teamwork.
Mary Pope Osborne, Sal Murdocca (Paperback)
Genre: Fiction - Historical Fiction; Book Themes: Pilgrims and Indians, Thanksgiving Stories
"Thanksgiving on Thursday" by Mary Pope Osborne is an easy-to-read chapter book that makes learning the history of thanksgiving fun and interesting. In their magic tree house, 8-year old Jack and 7-year-old Annie travel back to 1621, the year when pilgrims and Indians celebrated the first Thanksgiving in the New Plymouth Colony. They meet early settlers such as Governor Bradford and Captain Standish, and Squanto, a Wampanoag Indian. The Pilgrim girl Priscilla Mullins takes them home and shows them how to cook a turkey. Their lack of understanding of some of the vocabulary words used by the early settlers makes for a few lighted-hearted moments. When the Thanksgiving feast is over, Jack and Annie return home in their magic tree house. After witnessing the pilgrims' life, they realize they have much to be thankful for. This Thanksgiving story appeals to children in second grade and third grade.
Chris Van Allsburg (Hardcover)
Genre: Fiction - Children's Picture Books; Book Theme: Christmas
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg is a wonderful classic children's book for the Christmas holiday. On Christmas Eve, a boy, narrator of the story, boards the Polar Express, a mysterious train that is headed for the North Pole. He finds the Polar Express is full of children who are having fun singing Christmas carols and eating candies. The children finally arrive at the North Pole, where Christmas toys are made. The boy is picked by Santa to receive the first gift of Christmas, and he asks for a silver bell from Santa's sleigh. Our narrator gets his wish and the Polar Express takes him home, but his bell is nowhere to be seen. To his great joy, the boy finds his lost bell under the tree on Christmas morning. Chris Van Allsburg's Caldecott Medal award-winning illustrations are soothing and enchanting; it gives a heart-warming feel to the Christmas tale. The Polar Express is a good picture book for children in kindergarten through third grade.
Mary Pope Osborne, Sal Murdocca (Hardcover)
Genre: Fiction - Fantasy Books; Book Theme: Christmas
Christmas in Camelot by Mary Pope Osborne, the 29th book of the popular Magic Tree House series, is a fast-paced and easy-to-read early chapter book that can serve as a good introduction to the fantasy genre. Jack and Annie, the two characters familiar to the readers of the Magic Tree House series, receive an invitation to spend Christmas in Camelot. After they get there, Morgan le Fay tells the children that there are no Christmas celebrations this year, as Camelot is under the evil spell of Dark Wizard Mordred. The Christmas Knight arrives to inform King Arthur that he needs to send people to the Otherworld to bring back the Water of Memory and Imagination to restore joy to Camelot. Jack and Annie embark on a magical quest that includes three rhymes for clues, a white stag, winged dancers, and fire-breathing Keepers of the Cauldron. Christmas in Camelot appeals to children in second grade and third grade.
Arnold Lobel (Paperback)
Genre: Fiction - Picture Story Books; Book Themes: Animals, Friendship
"Frog and Toad Are Friends" by Arnold Lobel is a great book for beginning readers. The friendship between Frog and Toad is depicted vividly in five short chapter stories that are funny, engaging and easy to read. "Frog and Toad Are Friends", a Caldecott Award winner, is one of the best classic picture story books.
Lois Lowry (Mass Market Paperback)
Genre: Fiction - Science Fiction
"The Giver" by Lois Lowry is a thought-provoking young adult science fiction novel. The protagonist of this powerful story is a 12-year-old boy named Jonas, who lives in a highly ordered community. The Elders assign jobs, spouses and families. Pain, poverty and war are non-existent. At the coming-of-age Ceremony of Twelve, Jonas was selected to become the new Receiver of Memory. As the giver transfers memories of the past to him, a whole new world opens up for the boy. After he discovers the terrible truth about his community, Jonas goes on a dangerous journey to escape. "The Giver" has received many awards, including 1994 Newbery Medal, Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Honor Book, ALA Best Book for Young Adults and ALA Notable Children's Book. With original plot and believable characters, "The Giver" appeals to teens in 8th grade and up.