The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold
Jan06

The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold

Rudger is Amanda Shuffleup’s imaginary friend. No one else can see Rudger, but he and Amanda spend marvelous hours playing all kinds of imaginary games. Life is perfect until the evil Mr. Bunting arrives. He can see Rudger and he wants him, because Mr. Bunting eats Imaginaries. When an accident takes Amanda away, Rudger has to strike out on his own. Will he be strong enough to exist when no one is there to imagine him? The Imaginary is an enchanting story of friendship and personal strength. Harrold’s writing and Emily Gravett’s illustrations bring a magical world to life. This is a great book for middle grade readers to enjoy on their own, but would also make a great family or class read aloud. Recommended ages–9 and up...

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Reading Together for The Holidays
Dec14

Reading Together for The Holidays

The Holidays can be a great time for reading. I know life gets extremely busy, but that makes down time even more necessary. Also, there is often time to fill and a need for entertainment at parties and get-togethers. Instead of relying on movies or video games, try the old-fashioned tradition of reading out loud.  Books can be very engaging if you have material for the right age groups and if you put a little personality into your reading. If reading out loud isn’t your style, try a family Read-a-thon.  Gather together with your favorite books, blankets, and snacks. There are several holiday classics as well as non-holiday books to read together. I’ve included a list of some of my favorites. You can click on the titles to find a more extensive review.   Holiday Stories for All Ages         Holiday Stories for Children 10 and up     Non-Holiday Books with Broad Family Appeal           Mother / Daughter Reading          Books for Tweens and Teens (12-18)          ...

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Lulu and the Brontosaurus by Judith Viorst
Dec13

Lulu and the Brontosaurus by Judith Viorst

Lulu is a pain and she never likes to hear the word “no.”  Her parents give her everything because she throws screeching fits when things don’t go her way.  However, when Lulu leaves home to find a pet brontosaurus, her perspective begins to change.  Lulu meets her brontosaurus, but he wants to keep HER for a pet and he doesn’t like to hear “no” any more than Lulu does. This delightful battle of wills is a perfect transition to chapter books.  Lulu and her brontosaurus are entertaining characters for both parents and children.  The illustrations by Lane Smith add even more charm to an already wonderful story.  The language is the right level for early readers and the short chapters and pages with minimal text give struggling readers a feeling of success. The fun story is also a great family read aloud. Recommended ages—5 and up...

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Elliot and the Goblin War by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Dec12

Elliot and the Goblin War by Jennifer A. Nielsen

When Elliot Penster unwittingly saves a young Brownie from some Goblins one Halloween, he has no idea how his life will change.  Young Patches Willimaker is so grateful to Elliot that she can’t stop talking about him at home.  His name is so familiar around the house that when Queen Bipsy asks Mr. Willimaker to name her successor, Elliot’s name comes to mind.  Mr. Willimaker never believes the Brownies will make Elliot king, but they follow the wish of their queen. Elliot soon finds himself the ruler of small magical people he never knew existed.  Not only that, the Brownies are in a war and losing terribly.  Will this young human boy be able to stop the Goblin War before all the Brownies are eaten?  This fun, family story is filled with humor as well as life lessons.  Elliot is a good example of heroism and kindness and his story is very entertaining.  Both my 5 and 7-year-old loved this family read aloud. Recommended Ages—5 and up...

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Alvin Ho:  Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disasters, by Lenore Look
Oct22

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disasters, by Lenore Look

Alvin Ho is an endearing second grader who is afraid of everything, but very resourceful. His phobias speak to a young audience using humor to show that fears can be overcome. This book is the second in the series, but these books can be read in any order. The fun illustrations help keep preschoolers attention and the funny situations appeal to older readers and even parents. My entire family (ages 5-11) enjoyed this read aloud. In Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disasters, Alvin is plagued by a fear of the outdoors. When his father takes him camping to help Alvin overcome his fears, a series of humorous events take place. Both laugh-out-loud funny and at times very thoughtful, Alvin Ho is a great addition to family reading. Recommended ages–4 and up...

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Fergus Crane (Far Flung Adventures #1), by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell
Jul26

Fergus Crane (Far Flung Adventures #1), by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell

Fergus Crane is a new favorite for our entire family. The captivating story kept my eleven-year-old’s interest, but wasn’t too scary for my five-year-old. The wonderful illustrations made it a fun read aloud with plenty of pausing to discuss the pictures. This same author/illustrator pair also has a young adult series called the Edge Chronicles that I am excited to try as well. This first Far Flung Adventure features Fergus Crane. With his father missing at sea, Fergus and his mother are scraping by with her meager salary from Beiderbecker’s Bakery. They consider themselves lucky when Fergus is awarded a scholarship from The School Ship Betty-Jeanne so he can finally receive an education. However, one night Fergus receives a message from a mysterious flying box. It warns him of great danger and is signed by his ‘long lost Uncle Theo.’ Soon Fergus finds himself in the middle of an adventure that takes him to faraway lands and changes his life. Be prepared for a fun story, but a cliff-hanger ending that will lead you to more Far Flung Adventures. Recommended ages—5 and up...

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Witch’s Wishes, by Vivian Vande Velde
Nov24

Witch’s Wishes, by Vivian Vande Velde

When six-year-old Sarah helps an old witch on Halloween, she is given a secret, magical reward. The witch turns her costume fairy wand into a real, wish-granting wand. Unaware of her magic power, Sarah makes wish after wish, creating chaos through her neighborhood. Will the witch be able to fix her mistake before Halloween is ruined for everyone? Witch’s Wishes is a perfect family read for the Halloween season. It has witches, flying brooms, and magic, but nothing too scary for even the youngest listeners. I read this to my four, six, and ten-year-old kids and everyone found something to enjoy. Recommended for ages—4-11 years old...

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Waiting for the Magic, by Patricia MacLachlan
Apr02

Waiting for the Magic, by Patricia MacLachlan

Waiting for the Magic was a tender, read aloud hit in our house. My 4 and 5-year-old boys loved the talking pets that only some family members could hear. My 9-year-old envied the fact that the family adopted all four dogs and one cat available from the animal shelter. My husband and I enjoyed the loving resolution between a struggling husband and wife. The kids mostly missed the tension of the father moving out temporarily, but they caught the idea of pets bringing hope and healing to a family. Maybe this book struck a chord with us because we’ve recently experienced the magical healing and overcoming of disappointment that a new pet can bring. Things aren’t right in William’s family. His father has left and his mother says his father is ‘flawed.’ Four-year-old Elinor doesn’t understand what is wrong, but she is the first to realize the magic their five new pets bring. Four loveable dogs and one very patient cat help William, Elinor, and their parents recognize the magic and power of love. This is a sweet story for all ages and a good one to read as a family....

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Smart Dog, by Vivian Vande Velde
Apr02

Smart Dog, by Vivian Vande Velde

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Smart Dog by Vivian Vande Velde. I grabbed it on a whim, because we needed another read aloud book for my 4 and 5 year old boys. As it turned out, they were hooked along with me, my husband, and my 9-year-old daughter. My boys have a problem with intense conflict, so a lot of the books they like are a little slow. However, this book was gentle enough for them and interesting enough for me. They missed some of the interpersonal conflict between 5th graders, but it didn’t take away from the story. On her way to school, Amy Prochenko is approached by a dog on the run, but not just any dog. Sherlock is a lab experiment who escaped from the university lab when he overheard the head scientist talking about dissecting his brain. Amy has many adventures and finds herself making new friends as she strives to keep Sherlock safe. A funny and light story about an incredible dog and a fast thinking girl. This one is great for all ages....

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Kenny and the Dragon, by Tony DiTerlizzi
Feb12

Kenny and the Dragon, by Tony DiTerlizzi

When a bookish dragon settles on the hill near his home, Kenny is anxious to investigate. He is made a little nervous by Grahame’s size at first meeting, but soon the two are best friends. However, the citizens of the nearby town aren’t so anxious to make friends with a dragon. The problem grows when Kenny realizes George, another of his close friends, has been ordered to exterminate Grahame. Soon it will take all of Kenny’s brains and strength of character to save his newest friend from the prejudice of the villagers. This sweet story of friendship and loyalty is great for a variety of ages. Tony DiTerlizzi is an excellent illustrator as well as author and his pictures add to the marvelous story. I read this out loud with my 3, 5, and 9 year olds and they all enjoyed this story. This isn’t an easy reader, but with the frequent pictures it is a good transition from easy chapter books to some more complex reading....

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Great Family Books for The Holidays
Nov24

Great Family Books for The Holidays

The Holidays can be a great time for reading. I know life gets extremely busy, but that makes down time even more necessary. Also, there is often time to fill and a need for entertainment at parties and get-togethers. Instead of relying on movies or video games, try the old-fashioned tradition of reading out loud.  Books can be very engaging if you have material for the right age groups and if you put a little personality into your reading.  If reading out loud isn’t your style, try a family Read-a-thon.  Gather together with your favorite books, blankets, and snacks. There are several holiday classics as well as non-holiday books to read together. I’ve included a list of some of my favorites. You can click on the titles to find a more extensive review. Holiday Stories for All Ages The Thanksgiving Visitor by Truman Capote Molly’s Pilgrim by Barbara Cohen (picture book) The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson The Birds’ Christmas Carol by Kate Douglas Wiggin (a warning to those with tender hearts, this story has a bittersweet ending and might bring tears) The Unfinished Angel by Sharon Creech (this isn’t a holiday story, but has a good holiday message) Holiday Stories for Children 10 and up A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry Non-Holiday Books with Broad Family Appeal Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl The Extraordinary Adventures of Ordinary Boy by William Boniface Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson Kenny and the Dragon by Tony DiTerlizzi Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo Mister Max:  The Book of Lost Things by Cynthia Voigt Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George Lulu and the Brontosaurus by Judith Viorst Mother / Daughter Reading The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate Dicamillo Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech The Wide-Awake Princess by E.D. Baker Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery Books for Tweens and Teens (12-18) The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld Icefall by Matthew Kirby Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli Airborn by Kenneth Oppel Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer The Wish List by Eoin Colfer The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley...

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The Bridge to Never Land, by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
Nov23

The Bridge to Never Land, by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson

If you have read the previous Peter and the Starcatchers series (highly recommended before jumping into this one), The Bridge to Never Land is a little bit of a departure. Sarah and Aidan Cooper live in our modern world, but their lives change when they find a hidden stash of starstuff. They quickly learn that books they read as fiction are real and so are the dangerous villains. With a short trip to Never Land and plenty of adventure in the real world, the Coopers’ experience show what happens when magic shows its face in our time. This is a fun read for all teenagers and would be a good family read aloud....

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The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, by Barbara Robinson
Nov23

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, by Barbara Robinson

Halmark’s made for TV movie has made the story of the Herdmans well known, but the book is even more priceless and touching than the movie. When the town’s most rowdy and dysfunctional family takes all the lead roles in the church Christmas Pageant, it appears as if the show will be a disaster. However, as the Herdmans learn ABOUT Jesus, they teach everyone about the true Spirit of Christmas. This is a wonderful, humorous, and touching story, perfect for reading as a family during the month of December....

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Molly’s Pilgrim, by Barbara Cohen
Nov23

Molly’s Pilgrim, by Barbara Cohen

I don’t usually review picture books, but this is a classic Thanksgiving story perfect for many different ages. Molly and her family are immigrants in America in the early 1900s. Because of her accent and interesting clothes, Molly is teased by other students in school. For a Thanksgiving project, she is told to make a pilgrim clothespin doll. After hearing an explanation of Pilgrims, Molly’s mother makes the doll to look like her. This is a sweet story about all kinds of pilgrims in America. Molly’s experience teaches readers about the value of religious freedom in America.  The other students harsh treatment of Molly and her differences illustrates the need for acceptance and tolerance that is still important today.  Whether readers relate to Molly or the other students, they will gain a greater appreciation for a free country....

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The Thanksgiving Visitor by Truman Capote
Nov23

The Thanksgiving Visitor by Truman Capote

This is a nostalgic look at Thanksgiving in 1932 told from the viewpoint of 9-year-old Buddy. Growing up in a small Alabama town, Buddy’s best friends are his dog Queenie and his 60-year-old cousin, Miss Sook. His friendship with Miss Sook is put to the test when she insists on inviting the school bully, Odd Henderson, to Thanksgiving dinner. Through this experience, Buddy learns the importance of suspending judgment and extending forgiveness. Most children can relate to the story of a bully, whether as the victim or even as being the bully themselves.  Buddy’s experience helps him see both sides to such a difficult situation.  Miss Sook’s example shows all readers the power of kindness and the magic of sharing.  Younger children can relate to Buddy’s point of view, but older readers will appreciate the excellent writing and valuable life lessons.  This short story is perfect for reading out loud together after a good feast....

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The Wish List, by Eoin Colfer
Nov23

The Wish List, by Eoin Colfer

When Meg Finn meets an unexpected, early death, she ends up trapped in limbo. Her scale between heaven and hell is exactly even. To fix this problem, she is sent back to earth to help old Lowrie McCall fulfill his wish list before he dies. With this service, she hopes to tip her balance toward heaven, but she receives another reward—the friendship of a cantankerous and wonderful old man. Colfer’s humor makes this story both delightful and touching....

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Zorgamazoo, by Robert Paul Weston
Nov23

Zorgamazoo, by Robert Paul Weston

This is the tale of Katrina Katrell and her fabulous adventure with Morty the Zorgle. Together, they try to find the missing Zorgles of Zorgamazoo. Written entirely in Dr. Suess-like rhyme, this light story captures the importance of imagination and magical creatures. My family listened to the audio book and the reader is marvelous. However, you won’t want to miss the paper version and Weston’s inventive illustrations....

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Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl
Nov23

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl

I love this book, because it entertained all three of my children (ages 3, 5, and 9) when we read it out loud together. Willy Wonka opens his mysterious chocolate factory to five lucky children. His tour shows these children the magical world of chocolate making, but it is also a test. One lucky child will win much more than a tour, the most magical prize of all....

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The Unfinished Angel, by Sharon Creech
Nov23

The Unfinished Angel, by Sharon Creech

My family read this book during the holiday season and even though it isn’t a holiday book or even a religious book, it leaves you with an uplifting and positive feeling to fit the season. The story takes place in a community dealing with conflict and contention.  However, the angel telling the story helps other characters to see a bigger picture.  Creech’s angel has a unique voice and view of the world that makes you cheer for all types of people as they face their struggles and help each other. As usual, Creech creates endearing characters with realistic struggles.  Her poetic writing makes this book interesting for all types of ages and interests. See this article for more great read-aloud books for the holidays....

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A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens
Nov23

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens

This Christmas classic has been remade in many forms, but we often neglect the original. Dickens’s vocabulary might be too sophisticated for younger children, but the story is well known and easy to follow. Try reading about the original Ebineezer Scrooge and his ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future.  This story will surely turn your “Bah, humbug,” to a “God bless us every one.”...

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