Five Books We Love Right Now
An evolving list
Last Updated: 8/5/12
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Chew on This, by Eric Schlosser Back in my magazine editing days, I used to work on a column called “What the Writers are Reading,” and we were lucky enough to feature Michael Pollan in one of them. One of the books he recommended for kids was Chew on This, which is Eric Schlosser’s children’s version of Fast Food Nation. It’s been shortened a bit and the tone is a little more kid-friendly, but the effect is the same as it is for adults: When 9-year-old Phoebe found it in my shelf and devoured it, she said she would never walk in to McDonald’s — or eat any fast food — ever again. If I was a better mom, I might have waited for her to turn 12 (which is the recommended age) before handing it to her — there is a story about a six-year-old who dies from E.Coli and graphic description of animal cruelty that upset her briefly. But only briefly. She’s read it three times since.
Deadweather and Sunrise, by Geoff Rodkey. For the kid who likes pirates and adventures. It reads like a movie, filled with non-stop action and adventure. It’s kind of complicated but it’s about a 13-year-old who lives on a land with lots of pirates then escapes to a beautiful fantasy land called Sunrise where his family disappears and then he finds out someone’s trying to kill him. If you liked Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, you’ll probably really like this. Ages 10-13 -Guest Review by 10-year-old Phoebe
Bread and Jam for Frances, by Russell Hoban I would of course recommend any book in the Frances series to young readers (especially those who are just growing out of shorter picture books) but this one seems especially right for the DALS reader. Frances, the beloved, beleaguered badger refuses to eat her mother’s eggs, spaghetti and meatballs, or anything that’s not bread and jam. So that’s what her mom decides to serve her day after day, meal after meal. In addition to teaching a lesson to picky eaters, it contains a back-and-forth between Frances’s parents that warms my heart every time I read it: Father: “If there is one thing I am fond of for breakfast, it is a soft-boiled egg!” Mother “Yes, it is just the right thing to start the day off right!” Ages 3-5
The Van Gogh Cafe, by Cynthia Rylant. My 8-year-old Abby declared this her favorite book yesterday. (Well, if I’m going to be technical about it, she said it was actually tied for first with The Mouse of Amherst). I haven’t read the book but the way Abby tells it, Van Gogh Cafe is about all the magical things that happen in a restaurant in a small town called Flowers, Kansas. “But the thing is,” she told me, “nothing really happens. It’s just so beautiful. Each chapter is a new story about something really interesting like seagulls.” She would also like to point out that Cynthia Rylant (don’t make the mistake of calling her Cynthia Rowley, as I have) is a Newbery Medal winner. Ages 8 and up. (Same age range for Amherst.)
The Midnight Fox, by Betsy Byars. Gretchen was the one who recommended this as part of her kid lit program and I am embarrassed to say that before then I had never heard of Betsy Byars (even her more well-known Newbery-winning Summer of the Swans). We intend to change that over the next few months, because this was the kind of chapter book that is so tight and so simply written, you finish it and say “I could write a book like that.” (Of course, by now we know there is a converse relationship between how effortless a book reads and how hard the book was to write.) This beautiful chapter book is told from the point-of-view of Tom, a 10- or 11-year-old whose parents send him against his will to spend the summer at his aunt’s and uncle’s farm while they travel to Europe. Tom, whose idea of fun is building model airplanes and spying on hornet’s nests at his best friend Petie’s house, is not happy about the set-up until, on a lonely exploratory walk through the woods, spies a black fox. He spends his summer observing and eventually protecting the fox and in the process learns a little something about himself and life, including this little gem: That sometimes your parents are right. Ages 8-10.
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