booksinckids's blog

You know that feeling you get when someone hands you a present? The way it feels as you untie the ribbon, rip the tape and pull back the wrapping paper? It’s something like anticipation, with a touch of nervousness… and hope, too. Because that present could be anything, and all that possibility is exciting, and a little scary. It’s something more complicated than a noun. That’s the feeling that defines Bigger Than a Breadbox.

When Rebecca’s mother leaves her father, she takes Rebecca and her little brother with them, and Rebecca is forced to start at a new school where she knows no one. Removed from Baltimore and thrust into Atlanta, Rebecca struggles to fit in at a new school, cope with the separation of her parents and grow up all at the same time. But then, Rebecca finds a beautiful breadbox that, to Rebecca’s delight, grants wishes. Not all wishes… just wishes that can fit into the breadbox itself.

            Even though this is a book with a touch of magic, Snyder keeps the characters and their relationships so honest and organic that it feels as believable as truth. Simple sentences underlie not at all simple emotions in this complicated novel about coming of age, recognizing your parent’s humanity and realizing that no matter how wonderful a gift is, there is no object that can fix all your problems. A lovely novel perfectly suited for discussing as a family or in a bookclub. For ages 8-12.

Little Elmer Elevator (the father of the faceless narrator) would give anything to fly. Luckily for him, he's made friends with an alley cat who knows where a dragon lives, held captive by a slew of wild animals. It is Elmer's quest to free the dragon, and chase his own dream of flying, and to do so he must use all his cunning, courage and (most of all) kindness to accomplish his goals. Elmer makes for a lovable protagonist, whose most memorable characteristics are that he is kind and he is clever. Though many of the animals want to eat him, he finds ways around them that do no harm to anyone. Win, win.


The illustrations are plentiful, and the type set is large, so the fact that it is 86 pages is a bit misleading. It's a very short story that’s simple enough for younger kids to follow, with all the adorable a grown-up can handle, making this book wonderful for full family read alouds, barring the involvement of any snarky teens.

To read on their own for ages 7+ and to be read as a family for all ages.

          “Fairytales are more than real; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” –GK Chesterton

 

            New from author Lauren Oliver this fall is the middle grade fairytale Liesl and Po. Set in an unspecific time and place, this contemporary fairytale is akin in appeal to novels like The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo and (in tone) the Newbery Winning The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. And we LOVED it.

            Love is a strong word. And it’s a strong feeling. And not only is it the one we would use to describe our feeling about this book, it’s also the feeling that permeates the plot of the novel. The perspective switches every chapter, primarily between a girl named Liesl, who has recently lost her father, and a boy named Will, who admires Liesl from afar. Both feel alone in the world and both can see Po, a genderless ghost who befriends Liesl and eventually Will, too. All are looking for connection: Po to the world, Liesl to her father and Will to Liesl. In the meantime a full, practically Dickensian cast of characters emerges to provide humor, humanity and touches of magic.

            Beautifully written and imagined, we highly recommend Liesl and Po to… everyone. For ages 8+

Some books we read and we forget. Some books we don’t read at all. But then there are some books, like The Phantom Tollbooth, that we read, remember and then recommend to all our friends, because it’s got that special, magical quality that begs to be shared. And today, October 25th, is the 50th anniversary of this cherished children’s classic.

The Phantom Tollbooth stands with classics like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Alice and Wonderland, as books that people read as children, remember through adolescence and often reread as adults to share with their own children. With fifty years under its belt, The Phantom Tollbooth has blessed generations of readers with an unforgettable adventure, perfectly suited for reading aloud as a family.

So join Milo as he goes on a pun-filled trip through the Kingdom of Wisdom with his faithful watchdog, Tock; eat your words with King Azzaz, and jump to the Island of Conclusions. And just like Milo, we’re sure that in the end The Phantom Tollbooth will help you see the world in a more vibrant, playful and interesting way.

Family vacations can be a drag. Especially when you end up on a not-quite deserted desert island full of strange maybe-aliens, maybe-monsters that you’re left to battle off so that they don’t eat/kill/maim your entire family! When they say Bad Island, they seriously mean it. Yikes.

And you thought that summer you spent with Auntie Mildred in that mosquito-infested swamp she calls home was rough.

Told half in the present from the point of view of a very contemporary family (with surprisingly honest family problems for a story that also contains ancient alien curses) and half in the past story of alien royalty, Bad Island is an awesome mash-up brought to you by the guy who created the Eisner-nominated Ghostopolis (which is also awesome). With his signature flair for action and humor, TenNapel delivers another rollicking graphic novel adventure, great for ages 7/8+

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