Saturday, December 31, 2016

It's a fairy tale, a fantasy a new MG classic!

Teeny tiny dragon Frythian, swamp monster Glerk, good witch Xan and 13-year-old Luna are in terrible danger. Not from each other, but from the people in nearby City of Sorrows. Every year, the elders leave a newborn baby in the forest for witch Xan. They claim it’s the only way to keep the village safe from witch Xan. No one knows that the elders have created the lie to keep the people cowed and subdued. Actually, Xan finds the babies a better life. She retrieves them and, for good fortune, feeds them starlight before finding a home in a faraway village. The ritual goes on for years until, one night, Xan accidently feeds a baby moon light, enmagicking the little girl. Xan’s afraid moon magic will be too strong, so she locks it up inside baby Luna.  Xan decides she has to be the one to raise and teach her, for Luna’s magic will blossom on her 13th birthday. She has the help of incredibly tiny Frythian, a slightly annoying dragon and Glerk, a wise and caring swamp creature. 13 happy years pass until Xan leaves to retrieve the next baby. Little does she know that a young man is determined to save his own baby and kill the witch.
Strong female characters
Upper Elementary and MG

Safeguard your Family from Fake News

Fake News. It warps minds, promotes wrong views, and even hurts innocent people. In our world
of social media, blogs and online news, it’s impossible to avoid. Can we keep our kids away from it?
However, we can do something about it. We can educate our children so when they do read fake news, they’ll be able decide for themselves if it’s fact or fiction.

Why not start with something ridiculous? Show them the headline “Michael Phelps returns to His Tank at Sea World.” It’s a false headline from the newspaper The Onion, which is dedicated to making us laugh. Sometimes people read just part of a headline and take it seriously.

Point out that the author of a fake news story is in it for the money. All he has to do is build a website, make up a story and sell ad space. A sensational story will get lots of hits, and sellers will want to advertise on the site. They also trick people into visiting the site by naming specific cities. Everyone’s interested in what’s happening in their own town. One post claimed Johnny Depp was moving to the town of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The post got 150 Facebook interactions. Another trick hoaxers use is to design their website to look like an authentic news source, and mix in fake photos with real images. Fishermen tricked ABC in airing a hoax video of the Lake Champlain lake monster. A clever trickster can lure you to his web site, and he’ll make a profit, no matter if the story is true or not.

Armed with that knowledge, your kids are ready to use this checklist.
  • When they read a post on social media or an internet source, they can ask themselves, who made this?
  • Who is the target audience?    
  • Who paid for the post?
  • Or, who gets paid if you click on this? 
  • Who might benefit or be hurt by this message?
  • What is left out of this message that might be important?
  • And to double check on the facts, use, or Hoax-Slayer.
  • The most important thing to remember is: STOP before you forward (or use the story). Check its authenticity.  While it’s fun to share silly stories, let the next person know it’s fiction, not fact.

Karen Hokanson Miller is a former journalist and the author of Monsters and Water Beasts: Creatures of Fact or Fiction? Middle grade nonfiction (Henry Holt)

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Those Darn Squirrels Fly South

by Adam Rubin 
Artwork by Daniel Salmiere

There’s a Mr. Fookwire in every neighborhood. He’s a solitary grump who likes only one thing: painting the birds in his backyard. Oh, Mr. Fookwire has lots of hates. He hates the squirrels who eat the birds’ food and outwit his diabolical squirrel traps.  He hates it when the birds fly south and leave him behind. What do those darn squirrels do? They hatch a plan for themselves so they can fly south, too! The two reasons for him to get up ion the morning, his loves and hates, have left.  What’s a man to do? Go south! There are three books about Mr. Fookwire and those “darn squirrels,” each filled with surprising humor and wry jokes. Note to Adult Reader: See who guesses first that Mr. Fookwire has a carrot for a nose. You or a three-year old?

Great for Skype, Facetime and laps!

Wish by Barbara O'Connor

Do you want to get inside the head of an 11 year-old troublemaker? Read The Wish by Barbara O’Connor. Eleven-year-old Charlie makes a wish every day. However, it doesn’t seem to be working. Her Daddy’s in jail because of his quick temper and her Mama’s in bed behind of wall of empty soda cans. When the state takes Charlie away, they place her with family she barely knows. Charlie pushes away friendship and love, but no one gives up on her. It’s a poignant story about love and hope, but it’s also hilarious! There’s lots of dry humor and plays on words.  And, there’s the lady who dries her giant underpants by tying them to her car antenna and driving around town. Does Charlie get her wish? Of course! But I’ll bet you won’t have guessed what she wished for.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Trouble in Maiden Rock? Yes, it’s big trouble! Ms. Stillford, Quinnie’s teacher, goes missing! Quinnie and her friend Ben suspect almost everyone: two old admirers who’ve pined after Ms. Stillford for decades, a rocker group passing through town, even the two nuns from the local convent. You’ll find yourself smack dab in the middle of the mystery, worrying about Ms. Stillford, resenting the new girl Mariella, house breaking and snooping alongside Quinnie. The Maypop Kidnapping by C.M. Surrisi reminds us that even grownups make mistakes and that somebody doesn’t have to be just like you in order to be your friend. This was fast paced and fun. See if you can figure out “who dunnit?”
Age 8-12
Strong female characters

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland anyone? That’s what I channeled after a few chapters of Furthermore. Maybe it was because the story was unlike any fairy tale I’d read. Once I’d accepted that flowers were a food staple and the sky suffered from loneliness, I gladly jumped into the story. In a town where magic is thought to be linked to color, poor 12-year-old Alice is almost completely white. Her only support has been Father, who has gone missing years ago. When her former enemy Oliver offers to help her find her Father, Alice jumps in (literally) into the strange world of Furthermore, where Father has been trapped. Besides a rich, imaginative story, I loved the messages woven in. “Change the way you see, not the way you are” and “Not knowing is only temporary if you have a mind to figure things out.”
Middle grade
Coming of Age

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Arnie the Doughnut
Laurie Keller
Think YOU have it hard? Try being a sprinkle doughnut named Arnie.
He arrives in the world at 5:15 AM, born at the bakery. Then he’s deep fried, iced, sprinkled, and given his donut name. (Did I tell you it was Arnie?) Next, off to a grand adventure. Or is it grand, after all? Arnie’s tickled as Mr. Bing picks him up. “Oh, isn’t that cute?” he thinks, “He wants to hold me.” HA! You know what happens next. Or, do you? A surprising solution saves Arnie and satisfies Mr. Bing. The artwork is for kids and grown-ups (tiny hilarious captions alongside the main action) makes this fun to read aloud.
Read Aloud and easy reader.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Every time you read a story, you’re casting a spell of magic. So, what could be better than imagining yourself yourself in a world where fairy sprites light the night, a mandrake plant becomes a man, and fairy tales are true?  That’s the world of 12-year-old Sophie until the city’s leaders have decided that magic and imagination are dangerous. Fantastical creatures are killed, imprisoned or banished,Sophie stumbles across an unusual book of “Who?” that refuses to be destroyed and wants only Sophie to be its owner. A fantastical cast of characters help or hinder Sophie as she attempts to uncover the books' meanings. It’s Sophie, Peter Nimble, a deft thief who blindfolds himself, and Sir Tode, a knight who has been turned into a chimera of man, horse and cat, who save the world of imagination.

Ages 8 and up.
Strong female and male characters