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Posts Tagged ‘EL Konisberg’

Books for Summer Campers

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A recent conversation with the father of a 3-year-old son and 18-month-old daughter about a horrific car trip with the said kids, revealed that he had never heard of Mary Pope Osborne’s Magic Treehouse series. We were saddened as we can guarantee that the print version and/or the audiobooks have saved more family car trips than anyone can count. So, we sent him straight to his local bookstore to stock up on print and audio book versions. This encounter reminded us that new parents are often unfamiliar with books we assume everyone knows because they have been around for awhile. In short, we remembered that you don’t know what you don’t know, and that most parents don’t know about most of the great things for kids that have saved numerous parents before them.

So, this year’s annual post of “books for summer campers” includes our usual emphasis on recent books for kids but also includes some classics, because we would hate for anyone to miss out on the joys of Susan Cooper just because we assume everyone knows about her amazing novels for kids. As always, we hope our selections help the last days of summer pass magically for the children in your life. (NOTE: We tried to include hardcovers and paperbacks and ebooks, so you could access whatever type you need. We also included a few series as we know from experience if a kid likes one book it is a great thing to have another one just like it waiting to begin.)

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Chapter books for elementary school kids to read (or be read to)

FC9780803738393.jpgThe Best Man by Richard Peck (2016) – This may be the best book I’ve read all year, or at least the one that made me grin the most. Mr. Peck’s superb sense of humor and his ability to remember what it is like to be a kid, make this tale a memorable, smile-inducing novel. Somehow, without preaching, he manages to cover gay marriage, death, divorce, war, national guard service, reconciliation, bullying, bad teachers, social media, hormones, school lunches, middle school, the British Empire, and the Cubs — all in a tale about being a kid in the 21st Century.  Read it today; no matter your age, you will not be sorry. ~ Lisa Christie

FC9781101934593.jpgFlying Lessons and Other Stories edited by Ellen Oh (2017) – Ms. Oh, the founder of “We Need Diverse Books“, has edited a collection of short stories by authors who happen to be persons of color. Among them, the group has earned every major award in children’s publishing, as well as popularity as New York Times bestselling authors. Each story is completely unrelated to the rest and totally fabulous. This collection is perfect for a reluctant reader as one of these stories is sure to be just right. (Perhaps the one by Kwame Alexander?) And, as a collection, it makes a great family read aloud. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

FC9781580897136.jpgA Long Pitch Home by Natalie Dias Lorenzi (2016) – We agree that we all need more diverse books (see review above); and, this novel about Bilal, a 10-year-old boy from Pakistan newly arrived in the USA, provides a good place to start. This tale of family, culture, and refuge compassionately addresses immigration from a kid’s perspective. The plot turns on such questions as: Will Bilal’s father be able to join him or has he disappeared in Pakistan for  good? Will he survive the fact his younger sister’s English is better than his? Will he learn to love baseball as much as cricket? And, what is home? ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

FC9781410495884.jpgThe Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan (2017) – This second book in Mr. Riordan’s Apollo trilogy is fabulous. Enjoy Mr. Riordan’s trademark humor and well told tale for younger readers! And, if you haven’t already, try his other series; they all capture the trials of growing up with humor, grace, and with some learning about mythology. You, and the children you love, will not regret a moment spent in Mr. Riordan’s novels~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

FC9781442494985.jpgStella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper (2015) – A superb book about racism in depression-era North Carolina told from the perspective of a young African American girl. Don’t take my word for the quality of this book, my 11-year-old says it is among his top five favorite books. The New York Times said it is a “novel that soars”; School Library Journal called it “storytelling at its finest” in a starred review. The audio book will make car rides pass quickly. ~ Lisa Christie

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Some oldies but goodies (i.e. classics) for kids

FC9780689711817.jpgMixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by EL Konisberg (1967) – The 50th anniversary of this beloved book seems like a great time to reveal that this book was the favorite of all the books we read in elementary school — for each of the Book Jam Lisas. In it, Claudia Kincaid decides to run away, and in doing so does not run from somewhere, she runs to somewhere–a place that is comfortable, beautiful, and, preferably, elegant — the Met. And she does so with her penny pinching brother and his bank account. This tale holds up today — as each of us has read it to our kids at some point and loved it all over again. (We also recommend the audio book versions of this book of her other engaging novels such as The View From Saturday.)~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

FC9781442489677.jpgDark is Rising series by Susan Cooper ( 1965-1977) Will Stanton discovers that he is the last-born of the Old Ones, immortals dedicated to keeping mankind free from the Dark. And now, the Dark is rising. Will, along with Merriman – a wise teacher, three mortal siblings, and a mysterious boy named Bran are soon caught up in a fight against evil.  These stories thrilled us as children YEARS ago, introduced us to UK towns and villages, and still engage children today. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

FC9780140386745.jpgJip by Katherine Paterson (1998) – Many know her classic, Newbery award winning novel The Bridge to Terebithia, but this winner of the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction, tells the tale of an orphan in Vermont, and depicts a history that most of us never hear about. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

FC9780689844454.jpgKing of Shadows by Susan Cooper (1999) – Nat is thrilled to join an American drama troupe traveling to London to perform A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the famous Globe Theater. However, after being taken ill he is transported 400 years to an earlier London, Will Shakespeare, and another production of the play. History, time travel, adventure, and family all propel this tale.~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

FC9780547328614.jpgIsland of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell (1960) – We reach back before we were born for this book. But it played an important part in our early reading experiences. It also proved to be a favorite read aloud to our own children (and even inspired a mother-son trip kayaking trip to the Channel Islands off the coast of California where this book is set). Karana’s quiet courage, her loneliness and terror eventually lead to strength and serenity in this Newbery Medal-winning classic. This book chronicles Karana’s year’s long survival (along with beloved dog Rontu) alone on an island after all of her relatives and tribe have been evacuated to the mainland. It is based on the true story of Juana Maria, also known as “The Woman of San Nicholas Island,” a Native American woan who lived on her own for eighteen years until she was rescued by a ship sailing in the area. It will hold children spellbound as they learn about indigenous people and try to imagine how they would have survived if faced with a similar challenge. ~Lisa Cadow 

FC9780786838653.jpgRick Riordan’s various mythology series (assorted years) — As mentioned above, you, and the children you love, will not regret a moment spent in Mr. Riordan’s novels~ Lisa Christie

 

downloadMystery of the Green Cat by Phyllis A. Whitney  – Yes, the famous adult author wrote a mystery or two for children. And, this mystery is one I read over and over as a kid. And, when I moved to San Francisco as an adult I was glad that I had; this book provided me a map of Nob Hill, Golden Gate Park, Fisherman’s Wharf, The SF Bay, and Chinatown that I didn’t even realize it embedded in me until I resided there. It is out of print, but we include it here as an example of how the books you read as a kid are so much a part of who you are as an adult, and in some cases quite literally map aspects of your future life. ~ Lisa Christie

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For slightly older readers/young adults

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Solo by Kwame Alexander with Mary Rand Hess (2017) – Mr. Alexander does it again, with help from Ms. Hess; I truly love the books this man creates. Blade is the son of an aging rock star who has reacted to the death of Blade’s mom with an everlasting and highly dysfunctional descent into addiction and absentee parenting. As the story unfolds, Blade deals with high school graduation, his father’s inability to stay sober, his sister’s delusions of grandeur, the fact the love of his life has broken his heart, and a recent revelation he is adopted, by escaping to Ghana to find the birth mother he didn’t even know he missed. This is a terrific tale of music, maturing, love, adoption, family, and finding your way, told in Mr. Alexander’s usual sparse, but effecting poetic style (with an added bonus of a great soundtrack).  ~ Lisa Christie

FC9781101997239.jpgThe Epic Fail of Arturo Zamona by Pablo Cartaya (2017) – The power of poetry and protest permeates this novel about a young man Arturo, living in Miami and simultaneously trying to save his family’s restaurant and navigate his first crush.  ~ Lisa Christie

FC9781484717165.jpgThe Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein (2017) – This prequel to the fabulous and complicated Code Name Verity shows the family and upbringing that created Verity’s heroine Julia. The plot incorporates dead bodies, missing servants, life life of the gentry, travellers, and the Scottish countryside of the 1930s. It also made me want to re-read the original novel. ~ Lisa Christie

FC9780062498533.jpgThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (2017) – Sometimes it takes a work of fiction to give life to current events. And sometimes it takes a book for children to give all of us a starting point for conversations about difficult issues. Ms. Thomas has done all of us a service by producing this fresh, enlightening, and spectacular book about the black lives lost at the hands of the police every year in the USA. Starr Carter, the teen she created to put faces on the statistics, straddles two worlds — that of her poor black neighborhood and  that of her exclusive prep school on the other side of town. She believes she is doing a pretty good job managing the differing realities of her life until she witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood friend by a police officer. As a description of this book stated, The Hate U Give “addresses issues of racism and police violence with intelligence, heart, and unflinching honesty”.  Just as importantly, it is a great story, with fully formed characters who will haunt you, told by a gifted author. Please read this one!  ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

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Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys –  My then 8th grader loved this tale of the World War II in the Baltic States. In it, a group of teens and a few adults is trying to escape Hitler’s and Stalin’s armies and make it to safety on the Wilhelm Gustloff. Ms. Sepetys does a fabulous job of creating memorable characters and wrapping them into a plot heavily weighted by historical events.  Or, as The Washington Post stated, “Riveting…powerful…haunting.”~ Lisa Christie

FC9781524739621.jpgAlex and Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz (2017) – The Hamilton craze continues in this historical novel for teens. This time, Eliza tells the story of her romance with and eventual marriage to Alexander Hamilton.  Along the way, the author intermingles Eliza’s role in history as well as the work of Mr. Hamilton and other revolutionaries.  ~ Lisa Christie

FC9780440237846.jpgBefore We Were Free by Julia Alvarez (2002) – By Anita’s 12th birthday in 1960, most of her relatives have emigrated from the Dominican Republic to the United States. Terrifyingly, her uncle/Tio has disappeared without a trace. The government is monitoring her family because of their suspected opposition of el Trujillo’s dictatorship. Ms. Alvarez helps readers understand what dictatorship looks like, what it means to be left behind, and how we all dream of better lives. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

FC9780760352298.jpgGeorge Washington: Frontier Colonel by Sterling North (2016) and other titles in this series – We realize while many of our picks are based in fact, our list is lacking in nonfiction; we remedy that now with a new series of biographies by Young Voyageur/Quarto Publishing Group. We would describe this new series as the “Who is? What Was?” (or bobble-head books as many kids call them) series for older readers, with fabulous primary source materials scattered throughout.  ~ Lisa Christie

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Some early chapter books for emerging readers

FC9780375813658.jpgMagic Treehouse books by Mary Pope Osborne (assorted years) – These are a must read for those children looking for beginning chapter books as they progress with their reading. In this series, Jack and Annie, just regular kids, discover a tree house in the woods near their house – a treehouse that allows them to use books to time travel. As the series unfolds, they are whisked back in time to the Age of Dinosaurs, a medieval castle, ancient pyramids, treasure-seeking pirates etc… These books also make EXCELLENT audio books for car trips with pre-school kids of almost every age and persuasion. (You are welcome for all the hours of peace and learning and fun these books will bring your household.) ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

FC9780307265104.jpgCapitol Mysteries Series by Ron Roy (assorted years) – This series is for emerging readers who like their fictional tales to be slightly more realistic than time travel. In this set, KC Corcoran, a news junkie whose step-dad happens to be the President, tackles all sorts of mysteries (e.g., how to make school exciting, how to save the President from his clone). As a bonus, each of these early chapter books features fun facts and famous sites from Washington, D.C. ~ Lisa Christie

FC9780316358323.jpgAssorted Adventures of Tin Tin by Herge (assorted years) – These graphic novels have been translated into 38 languages for good reason – kids love them.  Enjoy! ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

 

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A Few Picture Books

FC9780763637842.jpgLibrary Lion by Michelle Knudsen (2007) – Miss Merriweather, is a very rule-oriented librarian – no running and you must be quiet. As long as you follow the rules, you are welcome. Then one day a lion shows up. There are no rules about lions; and so the fun begins in this New York Times bestselling ode to libraries. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

FC9781423164821.jpgElephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems (assorted years) – Gerald (an elephant) and Piggie (a pig) have a superb friendship and an unusual capacity for silly. Mr. Willems used to write for Sesame Street and with these books has created a wonderful way for kids to learn to love to read. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

FC9780789309624.jpgA superb and classic travel book series by Mirolsav Sasek (assorted 20th century years) – We remember these from our childhood and are pretty certain they helped instil our wanderlust.  Mr. Sasek was born in what was then Czechoslovakia, and is best remembered for his classic stories on the great cities of the world. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

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Mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles and grandparents take note: almost all of these are titles for young readers. We wanted to highlight some great books that you can pack in your favorite child’s trunk for camp or send them along in a care package and know they’ll be the just right for reading with a flashlight! AND, there’s one bonus “grown up” pick tucked in at the end, the phenomenal Wild by Cheryl Strayed, chosen with the adult adventurer in mind.

Ahhh glorious summertime.

Sunny days, starry nights, afternoons spent lounging by the swimming hole, hikes through the hills, twilight marshmallow roasts, and then, finally, the sound of zipping up the tent before settling into a sleeping bag with a good book and a flashlight.  In order to best recognize this all-too-brief  but very particular reading season, we decided to spotlight books that capture the adventurous spirit of young summer campers.

Our criteria: books that are easy to read with a flashlight, that aren’t too sad, and don’t make you long for home  (read homesick). Most importantly we chose titles that empower the young reader. We looked for books that show kids (and in one case, an adult) doing exciting, brave things on their own – or with wise adults leading the way. Our model – The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler by E.L. Konisberg – one of our very, very favorite books from childhood.

Recent releases for the Elementary School Aged:

 Ghost Knight by Cornelia Funke (2012) – Jon is reluctantly sent away to boarding school where he quickly discovers he is a kid marked by a centuries-old family curse to die at the hands of a ghost.  When he meets Ella and her ghost-expert Grandmother, hope for ending this curse begins. Of course, first he has to learn how to summon a ghost knight, earn the right to be a page and then figure out how to successfully break curfew.  And, somehow along the way he discovers boarding school is not the banishment he thought it would be.  A GREAT adventure for elementary school readers. ~Lisa Christie

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen (2012) – In a faraway land, a nobleman purchases four orphans in a scheme to place one, and only one of them, on the throne as the long-lost Prince Jaron. The catch, the three not chosen will probably not survive the “training”.  When you add a clever housemaid as a friend, a castle with secret passageways and the fact discovery of the scheme can have them all killed for treason, you have another great adventure for elementary school readers and the adults who love them. The False Prince has been published as the first installment of the Ascendance Trilogy, even though I just finished this one, I am ready for part two.  ~Lisa Christie   

For Middle Schoolers

 Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt (2011) – One of the few sequels I have liked better than the original and I really liked the original – Wednesday Wars.  In this stunning novel,  Doug Swieteck and his family move to upstate New York. Completely awed by his hero, Yankee baseball player Joe Pepitone, and trying valiantly to be nothing like his abusive, often drunken father, Doug has a lot to overcome: new school, his brother is serving in Vietnam, and a few secrets.  Honestly, this was one of the best books I read (kid or adult) in 2011. ~Lisa Christie

Kissing Shakespeare by Pamela Mingle (August 2012) – A romantic novel for teens involving Shakespeare, time travel and true love. ~Lisa Christie

Now for some paperbacks, because when you fall asleep reading with a flashlight you don’t want it to hurt when the book hits your chest.

 Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis (1999) – Recently re-“read” as an audio book with my two sons. We all loved the characters and laughed out loud a lot during this touching novel of the depression-era Flint, Michigan. The story unfolds through the eyes of Bud, not Buddy, a child on the run from his latest foster home. I loved listening to a strong audio narrator of this superb novel by an award-winning author. I also loved reading it long ago when it was first published. Enjoy! ~Lisa Christie

 

The Danger Box by Blue Balliett (2011) – This book is amazing. It has an awesome narrator – a legally blind boy who was left on the doorstep of his paternal grandparents’ home when he was an infant. His family struggles to make ends meet, but they have love, a junk store, a lot of amazingly unique bits of wisdom and a town library to end all libraries. And yes, it is at the library where he makes his very first ever friend and has the adventure of a lifetime involving Darwin’s journals, a British Museum, his father, creating a newspaper and so much more.  And it all happens over the course of one summer – really it does. ~Lisa Christie

 The Jaguar Stones: Middleworld by Jon and Pamela Voelkel – The first of series in which a middle schooler must save his parents who have been abducted while on an archeological mission in Central America. The third book in this series will greet any new fans at summer’s end as it is out in September. ~Lisa Christie

Bonus: Adult “Camping” fare:

Wild by Cheryl Strayed (2012).  This book will have readers itching to pack up their hiking boots and set out on an adventure. “Wild” is not only the excellent story of the author’s summer-long trek along the Pacific Coast Trail at age twenty-six, but it is also a wonderfully crafted piece of writing. Strayed, brazenly and amazingly unprepared, sets off from a trail head in southern California with no hiking experience and without ever having weighed her backpack, but with plenty of pluck, spunk, and determination. Strayed, now in her mid-forties, honestly tells of her long walk and of the complex workings of her inner-landscape at the time.  This is a gratifying read that is full of emotional and physical challenges and rewards, interesting characters, beautiful scenery, and sore feet – and of growing muscles in both body and spirit. ~Lisa Cadow

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Listen now to Coming of Age or download http://www.box.net/files#/files/0/f/0/1/f_662856759

The flashy gum ball pink cover of the book, our relating so well to her previous work (I Don’t Know How She Does It) and an NPR interview with Allison Pearson had each of us hankering to read Pearson’s I Think I Love You.  So we did.

We appreciated this poignant tale whose laugh out loud moments reminded us that no matter how far you travel, you’re never too far removed from your teenage self.  And, as a bonus, when reading about David Cassidy  you just can’t help but “come on, get happy” (think Partridge Family theme song).

This got us thinking about other “coming of age” books that we love.  Of the thousands to choose from, we selected to re-read An Abundance of Katherines by John Green and E.L. Konisberg’s The View From Saturday. And thus, a theme was born: we realized all three books involve road trips, focus on young love and have characters trying their darndest to mature.

An Abundance of Katherines takes the reader on the road from Chicago to Tennessee with Colin a boy cursed with a heart broken 18 times by girls named Katherine.  Fortunately, Colin’s best friend Hassan decides that this affliction can only be cured by a road trip.  You will love their trip, their friendship and their attempts to break the curse of the Katherines using math, travel and often sophomoric humor.

 

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We both adore books by E.L. Konisberg and count From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler among our favorite books of all time.  However, for this show we chose The View From Saturday. This book won the Newberry in 1996 (30 years after she won for The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler further endearing her as one of our idols).  It chronicles four members (and their unique teacher) of an extraordinarily successful 6th-grade quiz bowl team who are initially “stuck” with each other but grow to appreciate each other and all the quirks people bring to relationships. They learn humor and affection save the day.  Their road trip is to the state championship.

So there you have it – three great books about love, road trips, growing up and having fun along the way. ENJOY!

p.s. There is a road trip (or shall we say ‘train trip”) in “I Think I Love You” but you’ll have to read it to find out more!

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