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Kids Classic I Forgot to Read

The Egypt Game starts from the perspective of April Hall, a little girl who's just moved to a new neighborhood so that she can live with her grandmother while her mother runs around Hollywood. Despite the fact that April finds the new town far too provincial for her tastes, she soon makes friends with the decidedly less precocious Melanie Ross, and by proxy, Melanie's very serious little brother, Marshall (who never goes anywhere without his safety octopus, aptly named Safety). The three begin playfully reenacting ancient Egyptian rituals, and are soon joined by two boys, Ken and Toby. With five players in the Egypt game, all bringing their own ideas and research to the table, the game becomes more serious, and when strange things start happening, the kids can't help but wonder if they are making it happen. Meanwhile, a child murderer is in the neighborhood, and everyone suspects the Professor, the strange old man whose backyard is the secret location for the Egypt game. Though the cast of characters is racially diverse, Snyder never devolves into sanctimonious preaching about difference. All these varied characters and elements create a wonderful story about imagination, learning and the joy of play.

It may be impossible to throw a rock at an elementary school without hitting a third or fourth grader who's curious about ancient Egypt. So throw a rock, hit a kid and then buy them a copy of this book. The parents will totally drop charges when they see how awesome the book is. Or you'll go to jail with a funny story about bad advice an excellent kids book. For ages 8-12.

I Want My Hat Back!

A bear has lost his hat, and it’s quite tragic, indeed. Though he politely asks everyone in the forest if they have seen his hat, he is met with little to no help. However, a simple question from a deer jogs something most suspicious in his memory… perhaps finding his hat was easier than he’d feared!

It’s hard to find repetitious, simple stories that appeal to grownups as much as they do to kids… and since it’s Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, or Nanny McPhee who’s going to have to read that book (over and over and over and over and over and over again) it’s not just nice to find one with ageless appeal; it’s a blessed reprieve. And I Want My Hat Back is just that. With a sly, mischievous sense of humor reminiscent of Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith’s work, Klassen gives a wink to readers in this hilarious tale of forest animals and missing hats. For ages 3+

Happy Book Birthday to CROSSED by Ally Condie!

      Happy Book Birthday to CROSSED by Ally Condie, the highly anticipated to Matched! In Crossed readers will get to venture into the outer provinces of the otherwise highly controlled society as Cassia searches desperately for Ky. Meanwhile, as Ky searches for Cassia, our understanding of Xander grows ever deeper, creating a much more volatile love triangle than in the first installment.

            The switching perspective in Crossed gives us an unprecedented look into the mind of Ky, whose past and present are far more complicated than we’d originally known. As Cassia and Ky search for one another, their longing is palpable and their paths are woven through extreme peril. So keep reading. It only gets more awesome.


Bigger Than a Breadbox by Laurel Snyder

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.

Kids Classic I Forgot to Read

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.

Review of Liesl and Po by Lauren Oliver

          “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+

Happy 50th anniversary to The Phantom Tollbooth!

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.

Review of Bad Island by Doug TenNapel

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+